Galloway’s Convoy Stoned, Vandalized in Egypt

A convoy led by the maverick MP George Galloway carrying supplies for Gaza has been attacked in Egypt, apparently injuring several people travelling in his party.

The convoy, carrying aid worth £1 million, was pelted with stones and vandalised with anti-Hamas slogans after it stopped overnight in El-Arish, a small town around 28 miles from the Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

The attack comes weeks after Mr Galloway, of the Respect party, described Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak as a “tyrant” and “criminal” and demanded that he be overthrown by his country’s armed forces.

Mr Galloway’s party confirmed that Egyptian officials had also become embroiled in a dispute with the party over what type of goods they would be allowed to take into the territory through the Rafah crossing.

They were due to cross over into the Hamas-run territory today, but were so far believed to have been detained at Rafah this morning for more than an hour.

The biggest attack faced so far by the the 110-vehicle convoy, organised and led by the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, came after it arrived in El-Arish on Saturday.

During a power cut – which is a frequent occurrence in the town – children had pelted the convoy with stones, a security official said.

“It’s an absolute disgrace,” convoy organiser Yvonne Ridley told the AFP news agency. “The power was cut. Under cover of darkness members of our convoy were attacked with stones.

“Vandals also wrote dirty words and anti-Hamas slogans. Several people in the convoy were injured in the attack.”

The convoy had been held up in El-Arish after a dispute arose between organisers and Egyptian officials over the inclusion of non-medical aid in the convoy.

Egyptian officials have said that they will allow medical relief through the Rafah passage to Gaza, which is facing a humanitarian crisis after Israel’s military offensive. However, non-medical goods such as food will have to pass through Israel’s crossings with the Palestinian enclave.

“George Galloway is still in negotiations,” said Ms Ridley. “What we have agreed to do is to separate the medical aid from the non-medical aid. The non-medical will go into Gaza via the Egyptian Red Crescent.”

Mr Galloway’s convoy was braced for some hostility in Egypt after the Respect MP earlier this year called for its President to be overthrown in a highly controversial speech at a rally protesting Israel’s assault on the Islamist militants of Hamas.

“There are many governments responsible for this great crime in Palestine, but the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak is jointly responsible for the murder of every Palestinian who has died in these last two years,” he said.

“When he [Mubarak] was embracing Livni [the Israeli Foreign Minister] as the bombs were falling, when he locked the border at Rafah, he became an international criminal and an outlaw of the Arab world.

“So I call, in conclusion, on the great people of Egypt, on the heroic armed forces of Egypt, and the heroic army of Egypt of 1973, to rise up and sweep away this tyrant Mubarak.

“To rise up, to rise up, and to demolish the border at Rafah and let the people go free.”

The trip also ran into controversy when it was disclosed last month that three men, who police sources alleged were preparing to use the convoy as cover to leave the country and carry out terror attacks abroad, were arrested by police.

The men were all later released without charge.

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