European aid convoy ‘Miles of Smiles 8’ arrives in Gaza 16Jan12 January 16, 2012

IMEMC  -  15 January 2012

The eighth in a series of vehicle convoys from European and Arab countries to the Gaza Strip reached Gaza on Saturday, bringing medical equipment and vehicles for the disabled.

According to organizers, 48 European and Arab activists participated in the convoy, which consisted of a number of vehicles driving caravan-style from Europe through Arab countries and then entering Gaza from Egypt. The convoy is bringing two tons of medical supplies worth approximately $500,000 USD.

In addition, the convoy includes ambulances, vehicles modified for use by the disabled, and electric scooters. Previous convoys organized by ‘Miles of Smiles’ have brought infant formula, medicine, medical supplies and ambulances into Gaza.

Due to the Israeli blockade imposed in 2007, many of these items have been lacking in the Gaza Strip, leading to the preventable deaths of over 500 patients in the last five years. In addition, patients in Gaza are prevented from leaving the Strip by Israeli authorities, who require a special permit for medical treatment abroad which is rarely granted.

Numerous incidents have been documented of Israeli authorities forcing Palestinian patients from Gaza to agree to act as informants for the Israeli military in order to receive permission to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment. This type of medical coercion is a direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international law.

The Miles of Smiles convoy organizers say that they will continue to organize convoys into Gaza as long as the Israeli blockade remains in place.

The activists on this convoy, the eighth in a series, have been delayed in Egypt for several weeks due to the Egyptian elections. They were eventually granted permission by the Egyptian authorities to cross the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, and entered on Saturday January 14th.

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