| GEO World|
Aid convoy reaches Gaza after long journey
| Updated at: 0818 PST, Friday, October 22, 2010|
GAZA: Kia Ora Gaza was part of an international aid convoy that finally reached Gaza today after 34 days of traveling.
The convoy of 400 volunteers from 30 countries driving 150 vehicles was carrying medical supplies worth NZ$7 million and entered the region via the Egyptian-controlled Rafah Gate.
Rafah is the only land entrance to Gaza not under the control of Israel’s military
The team of six Kiwi volunteers joined the aid convoy led by Viva Palestina in heading to Gaza following the shooting of nine members of an aid flotilla by Israeli soldiers in May.
As the team neared the Gaza border they began texting updates to their website.
The convoy arrived at the Al-Arish wharf compound on a car ferry at 12.25pm; Chris van Ryn says there were “armed guards everywhere”.
The convoy prepared to disembark at 12.53pm (local time), Roger Fowler says their passports were returned to them and the vehicles were taken off the wharf under the “watchful eye of over 50 armed riot police”.
At 1.12pm the convoy finally left the wharf; many vehicles were flying Palestinian flags or flags of their home countries.
“Jubilation; this is it, we’re off,” Fowler said.
The convoy was escorted by armed military and police personnel as it made the hour-and-a-half journey to Rafah Gate.
As the convoy arrived at the Gate at 3.48pm, Fowler says there were two long queues waiting to enter; a lot of barbed wire and a heavy armed-police presence.
“We’re through the gate! We’re in Gaza!” van Ryn said.
Tears of joy overflow – once the entire convoy made it through the gate and parked up; van Ryn says the mood turned festive.
Viva Palestina director Kevin Ovenden gave a speech to all the volunteers and media gathered before the mass moved into Gaza to meet the people they had yearned to help.
“I promise you that we will come back again and again and again until all Palestinians can go home in peace and dignity” Ovenden said.
Making it onto the streets of Gaza and shaking hands with locals was an amazing feeling, van Ryn said, but he was not celebrating just yet.
“I’m still on hold until we hand over our aid – then I can relax and say ‘job done’,” he said.
At 5.35pm the light began to dim as the convoy headed toward Gaza City; one of the Kia Ora Gaza team member, Hone Fowler, was sitting on top of an ambulance waving a Palestinian flag.
“Emotions are running high, one convoyer was in tears and has now swapped her driving role and is resting her vehicle – it’s all a bit much,” van Ryn said.
The convoy headed slowly to Gaza City at 6.19pm – van Ryn said the wall around the city makes it feel like a prison.
“It’s a shock – the bastards,” he said.
At 7.03pm the convoy was surrounded with Palestinians. Mr van Ryn said thousands of people crammed the streets, kids were pushing forward onto the road – everyone yelling ‘thank you, thank you’, clapping and chanting and celebrating.
The Kia Ora Gaza team is currently holed up at a hotel for the night and will distribute their aid in the morning.