“Since the border is officially closed on Fridays and Saturdays, we’re hoping to get permission to bring the cement into Gaza on Sunday morning,” said coalition coordinator Ahmed Elassy. “Based on our positive experiences with the Egyptian Armed Forces and intelligence services in the past, along with the warm assistance we’ve received from the office of Egypt’s new foreign minister, HE Dr. Nabil al-Arabi, we’re confident that this consignment of cement will arrive to the strip as planned.”
Members of the delegation, which consists of concerned Egyptian citizens and foreign nationals, set out from Cairo at 8AM. They arrived at the Rafah crossing at approximately 2:00PM after rendezvousing with the cement-laden truck in the city of Al-Arish, some 55 kilometers west of Rafah.
The initiative comes following the successful outcome of the coalition’s earlier March 6 campaign, when it entered the strip via Rafah with a single, symbolic 50kg bag of cement. That campaign represented the first formal entry of building supplies into the Gaza Strip since the siege of the territory first went into effect in 2006 and the first humanitarian aid delegation to enter the strip since Egypt’s January 25 Revolution.
The current campaign, however, is not a humanitarian aid convoy, but a commercial transaction, as all the cement involved was paid for in advance by the Arab-International Committee for Building Gaza.
“We’re not interested in charity or handouts,” Kanan Obaid, chairman of Gaza’s Engineers Syndicate, told delegation members during the coalition’s previous March 6 visit to the strip. “We don’t want to be consumers, we want to be producers. But in order to do this, we need raw materials — especially cement.”
The Gaza Strip remains in desperate need of construction. Along with killing more than 1500 people, the three-week-long Zionist assault on the territory in 2008/2009 destroyed some 5000 residential units and partially destroyed another 50,000. An estimated 95 percent of the strip’s factories and workshops, meanwhile, remain closed until today as a direct result of the illegal blockade on the territory.
Gaza’s need for reconstruction was highlighted again this week by a series of attacks by the Zionist state targeting several districts of the besieged coastal enclave. According to coalition members camped out on the border, the artillery barrages were easily heard from Rafah.
“The dire circumstances under which the people of Gaza are living has only served to steel our resolve,” said Elassy. “We plan to stay at the border as long as it takes until this consignment of cement is allowed across the border.”
“Most of us participated in the recent January 25 Revolution, which led to the ouster of the longstanding Mubarak regime,” said coalition member Mohamed Mahmoud Aweida. “From that experience, we’ve learned how to exercise patience to achieve our objectives.”