Pro-Palestinian activists Viva Palestina are to send a convoy of trucks through Syria to Gaza – despite protests and withdrawals from their own members.
The charity, co-founded by Respect MP George Galloway, launched the convoy which departed last Sunday from the UK.
But the New Zealand and Malaysian affiliated branches of the organisation have withdrawn from the convoy after raising “strong objections with the convoy’s leadership in England.” The groups have withdrawn a total of nine vehicles and 19 volunteers from the convoy.
A statement on Kia Ora Gaza’s website said: “Right from the outset, Kia Ora Gaza insisted that the convoy avoid crossing Syria, where the Assad regime has killed, jailed and tortured tens of thousands of democracy advocates since March 2011.
“Given the Syrian dictator’s inhuman behaviour towards his own citizens, we don’t want the Assad regime making political capital from any humanitarian mission to Gaza.
“Second, given the devious plots of the Assad regime, the state of Israel and other imperial powers operating in the region, the risk to convoyers crossing Syria would be unacceptably high. However, our objections were overruled, leaving Kia Ora Gaza with no option except to withdraw.”
The convoy was originally intended to go by ferry from Turkey to Egypt, bypassing Syria, but the change of plan was described by Kia Ora Gaza as a “sudden, and unilateral, decision by [organising branch] leaders of Viva Palestina Arabia”.
Mr Galloway held a fundraiser for the convoy last Friday in Bradford last Friday and the convoy departed from the city on Sunday. The trucks plan to arrive in Israel by May 15 – known by Palestinians as Nakba Day.
At the event he told attendees: “The Palestinians under siege…will know that there’s a city called Bradford which is now their embassy here in Great Britain. The Palestinian people will pick the first fruit of the Bradford Spring.”