World Bulletin / News Desk
Egyptian authorities seized on Wednesday the passports of the activists in an international aid convoy to Gaza for seven hours as "Viva Palestina" convoy faced 2,000 riot police in the port of Al-Arish.
"We have now blocked the entrance to the port and we are now faced with riot police and water cannons and are determined to defend our vehicles and aid," Kevin Ovenden, convoy leader, said in a written mesage.
Viva Palestina Convoy has been at the Egyptian port of El-Arish with Turkish ship ULUSOY-6, which carried the convoy from the Syrian port of Lattakia to Egypt.
Ovenden said that Egyption authorities left the negotiations over taking the aid vehicles into Gaza.
"This late afternoon we were negotiating with a senior official from Cairo who left negotiations some two hours ago and did not return. Our negotiations with the official was regarding taking our aid vehicles into Gaza.
"He left two hours ago and did not come back. Egyptian authorities called over 2,000 riot police who then moved towards our camp at the port."
He also said that their situation was at a crisis point.
Earlier in the day the Egyptian Immigration Department stamped the passports of the 157 members of the convoy with 'entry' and 'exit' simultaneously, Bernama said.
While they were instructed to pay US$15 (RM51) per person for their visa upon arrival, exemption was however, given to Malaysian and Turkish citizens aged above 45.
The members were on the verge of being escorted to Gaza when, as a sign of protest against the Egyptian decision, they began banging on chairs, jeering and cheering at the airport.
The Egyptian authorities eventually compromised and the volunteers were allowed to check into hotels here.
Two other batches of Viva Palestina, totalling 400 members, are expected to arrive later by chartered aircraft from Greece.
Last Mod: 06 Ocak 2010, 11:37
"The Egyptians want to send us from here to Gaza...we will not go into Gaza without our brothers and sisters, we will wait for them to land before we go to Gaza," Ovenden said, adding that a plane which was to ferry the second batch to El-Arish incurred engine failure and was forced to divert to Damascus, Syria.
Israel killed nearly 1500 Palestinians and more than 5000 Gazans in the offensive and has imposed the siege on the occupied land since 2007.
A group of international lawyers and human rights activists accuse Israel of committing "genocide" through its crippling blockade of the Strip.