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New aid convoy departing for Gaza this weekend

From Guy Azriel, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Viva Palestina convoy has been cleared to sail to Egypt
  • From there, the goods will be transported by road to Gaza
  • Among those on board are 40 survivors of the fatal flotilla incident in May

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Survivors of a fatal Gaza aid flotilla incident are headed out again on another humanitarian convoy carrying aid for Palestinians that is set to depart this weekend, organizers said Thursday.

The Viva Palestina convoy, hailed by organizers as the largest convoy to break the Gaza embargo, has been cleared to sail from Syria to the Egyptian port of Al-Arish, from where it will make its way into Gaza.

"We are, of course, extremely pleased with the decision," said convoy leader Kevin Ovenden. "We are anxious to get to Gaza as soon as possible to deliver the goods and to show the people of Gaza that we have not abandoned them."

The Viva Palestina is set to make the last leg of its journey after lengthy negotiations with Egyptian authorities. The aid will be unloaded at the Sinai port and will then be transferred into Gaza by land through the Rafah crossing.

The main ship, carrying 380 activists from 42 countries, 147 vehicles and $5 million in medical aid departed from London September 18 and has been held at the Syrian port of Latakia for the past 10 days.

British activist George Galloway, a former member of parliament, has been refused entry into Egypt and will not be on board, organizers said. Among those on board are 40 of the passengers on the ill-fated Mavi Marmara in May.

Israeli troops boarded that ship and used force on the activists, leaving eight Turks and one U.S.-Turkish dual citizen dead. Israel says its troops were attacked by those on board, but passengers on the boat insisted they were fired on without provocation.

Israel announced in June that it would loosen its embargo on impoverished Gaza, allowing more civilian goods and construction materials to flow in while still banning military equipment and weapons.

Gaza is ruled by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic movement that is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union.