Bristol aid drivers stranded in desert no-man’s-land

Bristol aid drivers stranded in desert no-man’s-land

Two Bristol drivers are part of an eleven vehicle 25 strong team British Gaza-Aid-Convoy-2013 on their way to deliver donated medical aid to Gaza. Hopes were high on their four thousand mile journey south through Europe and across North Africa. But the convoy came to an abrupt halt when they were granted exit from Libya “with no return” but Egypt then refused them entry.

{jcomments on} The convoy is now marooned in a desolate car park in no-mans-land. The car park has minimal facilities described as “no toilet or shower facilities, and only a small cafe nearby.”

Palestine campaigners in Bristol raised over two thousand pounds from fund-raising events, from collections at mosques, and from individual donors. This paid for a mini-bus which will become a school bus once delivered to Gaza. The vehicle is loaded children’s educational equipment & toys, IT equipment, and medical equipment donated by a local hospital.

The Bristol mini-bus is driven by two Bristol people:-

Keith Darkin, a retired architectural technician from Montpelier. Keith was a driver on the “Roads to Hope” convoy which reached Gaza in 2010.

Sakir Yildirm, who runs a Kebab business in Fishponds. Following operation Cast-Lead Sakir drove an ambulance Gaza in 2009. Less than a year later he was at the wheel of a giant articulated lorry heading a convoy from Bristol with locally collected aid for the people of Gaza.

Convoy members in Spain

The drivers left Bristol on Friday 22nd February and joined with the rest of the UK convoy which left London on Monday 25th February. They have driven south through France and Spain, crossing to North Africa and travelling through Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. If they can cross Egypt they can reach the Rafah crossing into Gaza.

 Sakir, who is Turkish in origin, has named the mini-bus “Mavi Marmara” in commemoration of his third attempt to reach Gaza. In 2010 Sakir and another Bristol man, Cliff Hanley, came within inches of death when Israeli commandos attacked and boarded the Turkish aid ship killing nine people and injuring scores more. The mini-bus was decorated with the insignia of the ship together with names of those who died.

 Progress on the convoy is being tracked via www.facebook.com/GazaAidConvoy2013 but currently internet connections and phone connections are poor. The drivers can be phoned:-

Keith Darkin 07774864758 <<<< only this phone is working today

Sakir Yildirm 07940505048 

NEWS UPDATE – 12.00 today convoy organisers are appealing to Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, and to Gaza Premier, Ismail Haniyeh, to allow convoy to enter Egypt and cross to the Rafah Crossing to Gaza. 

Bristol has a long history of links with Palestine. From peace campaigners to faith groups, from football teams to circus performers to Banksy, many Bristolians have visited Palestine. Following the attacks on Gaza in winter 2008/9 a group Bristol-Gaza-Link was formed, with all party support from the City Council. It organised several aid convoys to Gaza including an ambulance and a giant articulated truck decorated with images of Wallace and Grommit. In May 2010, two Bristol citizens were within inches of death on-board the aid ship, Mavi Marmara, when it was attacked by Israeli commandos. Bristol was also the first local council in the country passing a motion condemning these attacks and calling for boycott and divestment of Israel. Following a student occupation in 2009, UWE now has a “Conflict Zone Bursary” which has already funded one student from Gaza. Local campaigners build awareness of Palestine issues through meetings, boycott actions, and cultural events. Bristol also hosts a Palestine Film Festival at the Watershed every year.

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