Gaza Solidarity Caravan Grows In Number

Before leaving Diyarbakir on the 19th of December 2010, for the last stop-over in Turkey, the Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan visited the grave of Ali Haydar Bengi. He was the local man who was killed in the Israeli attack on flotilla from Turkey on the 31st of May 2010 in the international waters of Mediterranean Sea.

Bengi is one of the many graves with flowers planted on top in the graveyard. He is now considered a proud martyr in Turkey as well as among Kurds. The members of the caravan stood in silence for a few moments at his grave.

The Gaziantep meeting was also organized in a sports complex. A student of Jamia Millia Islamia of New Delhi, Aslam Khan, said in his speech that supporting the cause of Palestine is important because success will mean a setback to the march of imperialism globally.

The members of caravan were promised that they would be given a Syrian visa upon arrival. The process was smooth. The visa fees for 81 members from 9 countries was waived. The members waited in their buses as an exit stamp was placed on their passports on Turkey side and visa was issued on the Syrian side at Eajaz. They changed into waiting buses from hosts in Syria.

The Red Crescent of Iran has decided to donate USD 700,000 worth of medicines to be sent with this caravan. With the money donated for ambulances and medical-surgical equipments by the Iranian parliament the total contribution from Iran alone as aid to Gaza has reached USD 1 million now.

Another high point of the caravan was the meeting on the 22nd of December in Damascus which was addressed by Khalid Meshal, Head of the Political Affairs of Hamas, the group in power in Gaza. Khalid Meshal paid his tributes to Mahatma Gandhi for his inspiring struggle against the colonialism.

In the evening the caravan members were invited by Khaled Abed Al-Majeed, General Secretary of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, to visit the refugees in Yarmouk camp where close to one lakh people live. Damascus is home to about 5 to 6 lakhs Palestinian refugees.

On the 23rd of December, some members of the caravan were invited to Beirut where they met the former Prime Minister of Lebanon and now the President of the International Committee to Break the Siege of Gaza, Dr. Salim Hoss. In an informal chat, he admitted that Lebanon has been the victim of the Israeli aggression often but lately because of facing stiff resistance Israel has become careful.

Beginning with the first attack on Lebanon in 1975, Beirut was invaded in 1982, the second Arab capital to fall to Israel after Jerusalem in 1948. It took 15 years of struggle before Israel partially withdrew from Saida and villages surrounding Mleeta in 2000 before its conclusive defeat in 2006. While the South Lebanon Army was fighting along with the Israeli forces it was Hizbullah which emerged as the saviour of Lebanese society.

The caravan which has now grown to 164 members – 60 from India, 32 from Jordan, 20 from Iran, 13 from Indonesia, 10 from Lebanon, 9 from Pakistan, 6 from Turkey, 4 from Bahrain, 3 from Malaysia, 2 each from Japan and Bangladesh and 1 each from Syria, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. The members are now waiting for the clearance from Egyptian authorities to leave the shores of Syria to sail to Egypt before its final entry into Gaza. (CNS)