The “Miles of Smiles 34” aid convoy arrived in the blockaded Gaza Strip on Tuesday via Egypt’s Rafah border crossing.
Teeming with medical and humanitarian aid, the convoy traversed the Rafah crossing accompanied by a delegation of high-profile Arab and foreign personalities.
“The ‘Miles of Smiles’ convoy has arrived in Gaza,” Aladdin al-Battah, head of Gaza’s committee to break the siege, said in a Tuesday statement.
According to al-Battah, a second stage of the aid convoy — which is the first of its kind to reach Gaza since Israel’s 2014 onslaught — will enter the strip from Egypt on Wednesday.
Members of the delegation plan to visit Gaza’s refugee camps, along with Palestinians injured by Israeli army gunfire during recent violence near the Gaza-Israel security fence.
Coordinator of “Miles of Smiles” convoys, Dr Essam Youssef, expressed his happiness to visit Gaza after a long period of interruption and stressed that he had never given up hope to visit the enclave again.
Youssef called for more humanitarian convoys to visit Gaza, which is in dire need of assistance because of the Israeli blockade.
He hoped that the Arab Republic of Egypt would permanently open the Rafah border crossing and that coordination with the Egyptian government would continue, especially as it serves the common interests of both the Egyptian and Palestinian people.
According to Palestine’s official statistics agency, more than half of the Gaza Strip’s roughly two million inhabitants were under the poverty line in 2017.
Last year, the UN said that some 80 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The Gaza Strip continues to groan under a decade-long Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has effectively destroyed the territory’s economy and deprived its inhabitants of many basic commodities.
A number of charitable organisations are participating in the convoy, the most prominent of which are: Al Baraka Charitable Society, Algerian Humanitarian Organisation, Turkish Gazi Distik Association, Palestinian Relief and Development Fund (Interpal) in Britain, Turkish Medics Association. The convoy equally includes participants from Britain, Belgium, Germany, Algeria, Jordan, Indonesia, and Kuwait representing charitable and humanitarian organisations.