Al-Ahram Weekly Online
2 - 8 May 2002
Issue No.584
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Border march

Led by Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, a shipment of humanitarian supplies passed through the Rafah border crossing to the Palestinians this week amid scenes of empathy and generosity. Dahlia Hammouda joined the solidarity convoy

Mrs Suzanne Mubarak leading a pro- Palestinian humanitarian march at Rafah; the convoy of supply trucks and ambulances headed for the borde

photos: AP
Mrs Suzanne Mubarak led a silent public pro- Palestinian humanitarian march on Monday at the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, heading a convoy of tons of food supplies and medicine for the Palestinians.

In a message of solidarity and public support, Mrs Mubarak, several hundred Red Crescent volunteers and a host of high-level officials and public figures wearing white Red Crescent bands on their arms marched near the Israeli-controlled Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The marchers carried banners with slogans such as: "Aiding the victims of aggression is a noble human duty," "Egyptian and Palestinian women together for a fair peace and restoration of justice," and "A message of solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to a free and decent life."

Arriving after the march to a stand about eight kilometers away from the border, where she was to witness 20 Egyptian trucks loaded with supplies and six ambulances passing through to be delivered at the border, Mrs Mubarak was greeted by Riad Zaanoun, the Palestinian health minister, Abdel-Aziz Shaheen, the Palestinian minister of supply, Intissar Al-Wazeer, the Palestinian minister of social affairs, Zohdi Al-Qadra, Palestine's ambassador to Egypt and Mohamed Zaghloul, secretary-general of the Palestinian Red Crescent. The trucks carried 300 tons of sugar, rice, flour and medicine to the Palestinians as a first shipment.

The Egyptian Red Crescent Society, which Mrs Mubarak chairs, has recently donated LE2 million to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, part of a LE10 million fund it has allocated to the Palestinians.

In remarks addressed to the Palestinians following the march, Mrs Mubarak said: "We are aware of the extent of your suffering and the value of the sacrifices you are making for the freedom and dignity of the nation."

She added, "We have come here to the borders of Egypt to show our full support in these trying times. We assure you that we live your struggle, second by second, and look forward to a comprehensive and just peace."

Mrs Mubarak also expressed solidarity with Palestinian women, "who have been heroic in their perseverance in the face of immense challenges."

Ending her short address, Mrs Mubarak said, "God be with us all in these difficult times until peace prevails and until we meet again, God willing, with the people of Palestine on its free and liberated land."

It was not apparent when Israel, which controls the Gaza crossing, would allow the convoy to enter the Strip. The Palestinian health minister told Al-Ahram Weekly that, unlike previous shipments, which were not allowed in for weeks, this particular one is backed by contacts at the highest level.

Shaheen, the Palestinian supply minister, said he was hoping the special coordination that took place regarding this shipment would see it through. "Other shipments have been left waiting in Al-Arish for months until they expired," he said.

Quite frankly, he told the Weekly, very few of the huge number of convoys of humanitarian aid from Arab countries reported by the media during the past few weeks had actually made their way through to Palestinian families.

A truck driver standing at the border on the Egyptian side of Rafah, who had been unloading a flour shipment overnight sent by Egyptian charity associations and mosques, told the Weekly that the goods were being delivered to Israelis in civilian clothing, whom he assumed were store managers, under the supervision of the Israeli military. He said tons of flour had been wasted as the store- keepers deliberately mishandled and cut open the sacks. "I don't know when and if the Palestinians will ever see this flour," he said.

Kamal El-Geddawi, an Egyptian doctor who heads the Rafah branch of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society at Al-Arish, which lies right at the border crossing, told the Weekly that he knew of Jordanian, Iraqi and Syrian shipments that have stood at the borders for weeks until they rotted. "The Palestinian families who have passed through here for medical care have told me they had never received any supplies. In fact, they say Israeli forces enter their homes and throw out whatever food they have," El-Geddawi said.

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