History was made yesterday in the Maghreb as a convoy headed from the UK to Gaza was allowed to pass through the border between Morocco and Algeria, which has been closed for nearly 15 years. The border closed in 1994 after Morocco suspected Algerian involvement in the attack of a Marrakesh hotel.
Gaza; Peace N’ Freedom described the convoy, sharing a video as well:
Reminiscent of the solidarity work with Spain during the Spanish Civil War, the largest aid convoy ever from Britain to the Middle East is set to leave from Westminster, London, tomorrow February 14. The convoy consists of 100 vehicles, including a boat, a fire engine and 12 ambulances. Member of Parliament George Galloway will lead the convoy on its travel through Europe, North Africa to Gaza, Palestine. The convoy has been financed through donations from the British people. Video on the launching below, more info at VivaPalestina.org.
Although the convoy is traveling to Gaza for humanitarian purposes, its mere passing through the Maghreb could have farther-reaching effects. At least two members of the convoy have been reporting success stories through blogs, and a recent update on Viva Palestina‘s web site demonstrates that involvement in the convoy's success is not limited to the UK:
The convoy are now filling up with fuel in the town of Chlef. Apparently an Algerian is paying the bill on this occasion. The convoy has decided to make up some lost time by heading for Algiers this evening. The journey could take more than 3hours.
According to some, the convoy is helping to bridge the gap between Algeria and Morocco. Yvonne Ridley who, along with Hassan Al Banna Ghani, is documenting the trip for a film, wrote a piece for VivaPalestina.org in which she said:
Although there are still thousands of miles separating the convoy from its end game of delivering aid to Gaza, Saturday's border crossing is the one which will be recorded in the history books.
Morocco and Algeria agreed to put aside their differences to open their land border for the first time in 15 years for the sake of Palestine.
Palestine has often been described as the key which can open the door to Middle East peace, but tomorrow it will open a door in the Maghreb which has been tightly shut since 1994.
This wonderful gesture is something Condaleezza Rice failed to persuade the neighbouring countries to do – her last attempt before the departure of George W Bush was made in September.
But the peace mission and genuine humanitarian nature of the Viva Palestina convoy has melted the hearts of those on both sides of this vital land border which, when opened, will ease the passage of those carrying more than one million pounds of aid for Gaza.
She also shared this video clip:
Another blog, Gaza Convoy 2009, is detailing the trip from afar. On Saturday, February 21, they posted this update:
00:25 (GMT) – Text update from the A Team
“Salaam we went through centre and hundreds of people here, it was amazing as its somthing we have never seen before. There were hundreds of people on the streets cheering. We were on the roof of our van, hanging off the back ladder with Mudasir tannoy. It was top, even the police are cheering ‘Allah Hu Akbar’. The youths, kids and men were hugging us…a 15yr old boy told me that even the muslims who drink came on the street to shout ‘Allah Hu Akbar’ and they make dua for us everyday to succeed.
We have come to a caravan site to sleep now”
Finally, Greg to Gaza, a blogger taking part in the convoy, is documenting the journey. His most recent post was from Oujda, on the Moroccan-Algerian border:
Phone signal very sporadic. I'm fine. On Morocco Algeria border. First time open for 17 years. Just for us. Yesterday we had a fantastic reception at a socialist MP house and later that night a banquet in Oujda thrown by the greatest Islamic scholar in Morocco. Big rift in convoy today when some radical unruly elements were nearly sent home. A rebellion was finally successful when a third of the convoy refused to move from the Moroccan border unless everyone was let through. Time will tell whether that was the right decision. An Algerian MP has sent food to the border because we have been stuck at passport control for at least 9 hours. They have also promised free fuel tonight. Where we will sleep, when we can leave, how much longer its going to take or how many hours we have to drive are all unknowns.