A European campaign is preparing a convoy of ambulances and trucks loaded with medical supplies for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This convoy plans to enter Gaza in April, to assist Palestinian patients awaiting emergency medical care.
The Hope for Gaza convoy is being funded and supported by 31 European non-governmental organizations. It is one of several efforts to break the closure on Gaza, where goods and people are restricted from traveling to and from the Gaza Strip.
Several European parliamentarians have expressed support for efforts to end the economic and physical blockade on Gaza.
Swiss member of parliament Joseph Zebrbas officially endorsed the Hope for Gaza convoy on April 16.
Staying silent is "involvement in the war crimes perpetrated against civilians there. Denying patients of leaving for treatment is a war crime against humanity,” he said.
Zebrbas and ten other European and British members of parliament are involved in the convoy efforts.
Ramy Abdu, a convoy coordinator, said the campaign has received tremendous support from individuals volunteers. The group is giving priority to doctors, human rights activists and journalists, he said.
The European Campaign to End the Seige on Gaza will enter Gaza carrying basic supplies like food, clothing and medical aid.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency will join the mission, along with privately-funded missions such as the UK-based Viva Palestina, which entered Gaza on March 9 with 50 volunteers and 100 truckloads of goods.
Viva Palestina successfully entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing with the permission of Egyptian authorities. British parliamentarian George Galloway headed the humanitarian mission.
It plans to repeat the effort in July with $10 million in aid and 500 trucks of materials.
Some of the aid entering Gaza through these convoys includes prosthetic limbs for Gazan children who lost their limbs during Israelzzz*zs 22-day war on Gaza earlier this year, as well as non-medical aid such as clothing and toys.
Israeli restrictions on border crossings in and out of the Gaza Strip have strangled Gaza economically and brought on a severe humanitarian crisis.
Permission to enter Gaza or transport aid into the territory often takes several days of negotiations between convoy members and border authorities. Agreements reached in 2005 between Palestinians, Israel and Egypt allow medical aid supplies and staff to enter through the Rafah crossing, while non-medical items such as food and clothing are sent to the Red Crescent.
This Palestinian branch of the Red Cross then re-packages the items and sends them to the Awja border, a separate crossing.
The length of these procedures causes delays and has resulted in the deaths of patients awaiting treatment in Gaza.
Further, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has stopped financing treatment for patients seeking treatment in Israeli hospitals. According to the World Health Organization, at least four Palestinians - and as many as seven - have died since March
22, awaiting permission to exit Gaza for treatment.
At the Rafah crossing, Egyptian authorities rely on Israeli permission in allowing goods or people to enter and leave the Gaza Strip.