The Asia to Gaza caravan arrived to a grand welcome by the Governor of Latakia, Dr. Khalyl Mashhaddya, a cardio-thoracic surgeon, on 25th December, 2010, in the port city of Syria, with school children playing their band and raising pro-Palestine and pro-Syria placards on the street.
The next day at a meeting the Baath Party office bearer and former Ambassador to India, Dr. Mohsen Alkhyyr, spoke fondly of the vision of Gandhi and role of Nehru in giving shape to the Non-Aligned Movement along with Nasser, Tito and Sukarno.
While awaiting the clearance from Egyptian authorities for entering Gaza, the caravan members were invited by a host of organizations – of students, farmers, workers and engineers. The caravan members also visited the Al-aa-Deen camp of Palestinian refugees, some of whom came as far back as in 1948.
This camp is also host to Syrian refugees from Golan Heights and some Palestinian refugees from Iraq.
Except for the citizenship right the earlier refugees enjoy all the benefits entitled to Syrian citizens. But the Palestinian refugees admit quite unambiguously that they are the guests of Syrian government. The day the situation will become normal they’ll return to their homeland after handing over their property to the Syrian government. The Syrian government also considers the Palestinian people as their own.
The banner to welcome to caravan on behalf of Governor of Latakia read: ‘The masses of the Governorate of Latakia Salute the Free Men of Convoy Asia (1) to Break the Siege of Our People in Gaza.’ The caravan members have been received warmly in the Arab world as they are seen as supporting an Arab cause.
On the 30th of December the caravan members cheered the staff of Latakia Port as they loaded humanitarian aid – food, medicines, stationery for children and four ambulances – on the ship appropriately named ‘Salam’ or peace by raising pro-Palestine slogans.
On new year’s day of 2011, the ship sailed from the Latakia port amidst cheering by the remaining members of the caravan and Latakian citizens. The Governor of Latakia accompanied by the Baath Party chief was there on both ocassions, when the loading was taking place as well as when it sailed.
The send off became quite emotional as there was a realization that Israelis may intercept the ship in mid water. Ajit Sahi speaking before the ship’s departure said that in case of any mishappening, this caravan to Gaza must not stop and there should be more such caravans. Quoting Mahatma Gandhi he said bravery is not in killing people but in sacrificing one’s life fighting against injustice.
The humanitarian aid will be joined by rest of the members of caravan who will fly to Al Arish in Egypt and the caravan will cross the nearby Rafah border to enter Gaza on 2nd January, exactly a month after it was flagged off from Rajghat, thereby achieving its final objective. (CNS)