Egypt set deadline for an international humanitarian aid convoy that was forced to make a detour to Syria after almost five days stranded in Jordanian port city, Aqaba.
The 450 members-Viva Palestina convoy that has 220 trucks and ambulances left Jordan for Syria on Tuesday in hopes of reaching Gaza before January 3 after the Egyptian government refused to let them enter the country through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba, the most direct route, to reach Israel-besiged Gaza land.
Egyptian government said it would close the Rafah border crossing at this date, in a curb that the convoy will overcome on the road to Gaza.
Tuesday night, dozens of trucks were lined up at the Jaber border with Syria awaiting clearance from authorities before entering Syrian territory.
The 250 vehicles and 450 delegates are on their way to Syria's Mediterranean port of Latakia, from where they will travel to El Arish in Egypt.
The journey from Aqaba to El-Arish is expected to take about 12 hours.
Egypt refused to allow the convoy enter its territories from the Red Sea port of Nuweibeh, insisting it only receives aid to Gaza from the Mediterranean port of El Arish.
Activists hoped they would reach Gaza by December 27, the first anniversary of Israel's deadly offensive on the enclave, which left nearly 1,500 Palestinians dead, with a third of them children, and injured more than 5,000, but the date passed as they waited.
Ali Abul Sukkar, a member of the delegation, said the convoy had to change its route after talks with Egypt failed.
According to the agreement, the convoy will only be able to enter Egypt from El Arish.
"Our aim is to reach Rafah before January 3, the deadline set by Egypt before it closes the Rafah crossing," the member told The Jordan Times.
"Egypt agreed to allow all the convoy members and trucks enter Gaza before that date. We hope no hurdles are created in our way."
Abul Sukkar explained that the Egyptian government warned the delegation that they will not be allowed to enter Gaza if they do not arrive before January 3.
"Egypt could have acted in a better manner with us. After all, this is humanitarian aid. I don't see a difference between the port of Nuweibeh and El Arish; both are Egyptian ports," he added.
Gaza Freedom March?
Protest leaders stranded in Cairo accepted an Egyptian offer on Tuesday to allow only 100 out of about 1,400 protesters into blockaded Gaza after the activists staged demonstrations and a hunger strike.
Last Mod: 30 Aralık 2009, 13:34
Delegates from more than 40 countries who came to Cairo plans to reach the Palestinian enclave, which shares the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
Activists said the foreign ministry offered to let them choose 100 delegates who would be allowed into Gaza. They were due to leave Cairo for Gaza on Wednesday morning.
The Gaza Freedom March, was planned for Thursday.
Activists have staged demonstrations and sit-ins around Cairo to push for entry to Gaza. Dozens of French activists camped out in front of their embassy in Cairo after being refused passage.
Israel and Egypt imposes siege into the occupied land home to 1.5 million people since June 2007.
Israel controls all but one of Gaza's border crossings, the Rafah terminal with Egypt, which Cairo keeps closed, drawing anger with people.
A group of international lawyers and human rights activists accuse Israel of committing "genocide" through its crippling blockade of the Strip.