Humanity Voice - The story of “ Miles of Smiles II” is a story of insistence and courage

 

 

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  The story of “ Miles of Smiles II” is a story of insistence and courage
by Adli Al-Baraqouni-humanitarian voice - 2010-08-23

Dr.Issam Yousef , the general coordinator of Miles of Smiles II

The first travel ,during which they cut thousands of miles to Gaza a year ago, the obstacles they met here and there,the travel fatigue they felt, when they were obliged to wait for 30 days with their aid convoy ,all these issues together did not stop them from repeating the same experience through organizing the successful convoy of “ Miles of Smiles II” this year.

The story of “ Miles of Smiles II” is a story of persistence and courage ..persistence to break the oppressive blockade of Gaza, and courage in challenging all the obstacles till delivering the aid and relief to Gaza citizens being under that heinous Israeli siege since more than four years.

Humanitarian voice met with Dr.Issam Yousef, the general coordinator of the “ Miles of Smiles II” while leaving Gaza in his way to London, and carried out the following dialogue with him , which comes in two parts :
Following is the first part :

-You have visited the Gaza Strip within the members of” Miles of Smiles I” last year, and now you are visiting it again with “Miles of Smiles II”..how could you talk to us about the situation in Gaza after one year of your first visit, more in particular

At the beginning ,I would like to say that the aid convoy “ Miles of Smiles II” comes within the exerted efforts to lift the siege of Gaza,.. not just to ease the siege, but to make Gaza restore its freedom that was looted by the Israeli occupation.

In which concerns the humanitarian situation of Gaza, the big ordeal is still prevailing there , while figures show that the poverty percentage exceeds 80%, and in spite of the availability of some basic material, still the purchasing power of the residents is very low, while the majority of its people are depending on the UNRWA aid programs.

The occupation is still the main reason of the catastrophe reflected through electric outages that is considered as a lifeline for everybody in our times, and the severe restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement of Gaza residents that isolates them from outside world.

All these issues reaffirm that the residents of Gaza are still living in a disastrous situation, and the solution is limited in lifting the siege, and finding an equitable solution to the cause of the Palestinian people, that ends the occupation and make the Palestinians regain their rights…so, Gaza siege is a humanitarian catastrophe due to political reasons.

- Does that mean that the general prevailing situation in Gaza , since the last year till now has not improved in terms of the humanitarian conditions ?

It might be the contrary ,people’s situation has worsened with the continuous siege that largely affected people’s everyday life and depleted their capacities . Gaza residents are living in a deteriorating situation in both financial and moral levels , and the psychological factor has dangerous side effects on life’s details .

The people of Gaza are living in a situation of fear and anxiety in all times and do not know what is hidden for them in the future.

- If we want to make a comparison between “ Miles of Smiles I “ and “ Miles of Smiles II” in terms of preparation and coordination with the competent bodies in Gaza, and in terms of assistance volume , and the public reception of the convoy in Gaza ..what

I think that the continued convoys to Gaza is a very important issue , and became a persistent perquisite by various parties like Gaza residents and official bodies, in addition to civil society institutions ,as well as the international and humanitarian institutions like the UNRWA. . at least these convoys make Gaza residents feel that the world did not forget them.

Concerning the convoys of Miles of Smiles I and Miles of Smiles II , we coordinated in both cases with the competent parties in Gaza , and concerning the assistance its importance relates to its quality much more than the quantity.

For example the medical supplies and medicines being delivered to Gaza were very important in terms of quality more than quantity, the same applies to the handicapped vehicles highly needed in Gaza. Also the public reception was very warm and we felt how the needy and sick people were happy to get the necessary medicine and food.

- There was a kind of cooperation with the Egyptian authorities regarding Miles of Smiles II , contrary to what happened with the first convoy , how would you explain this ? Do you expect cooperation of the Egyptian side to continue in the future ?
Dr.Issam Yousef talking to Humanitarian voice

I think that Egypt is not in an enviable situation ,because the blockade of Gaza was imposed on it, and those who imposed the siege on Gaza are Israel, the international quartet, the United States, with the participation of the United Nations , and they are responsible of this blockade, while Egypt seems as if it is the responsible for this siege.

Meanwhile, Egypt as being the biggest Arab country, can play a paramount role in the area and can implement certain arrangements to make Rafah crossing open in a permanent manner .

Also during the first convoy , Egypt cooperated with us, and there was an approval from their part , but some complications and conditions that were imposed later resulted in delaying the convoy for about 32 days.

Also, there were some conditions regarding the number of participants in the convoy, stating that they should not be more than 100, and that their names should be submitted to the Egyptian authorities two weeks prior to their arrival to Cairo for security purposes , in addition to the checking of the assistance material.

The Egyptian authorities allow the entrance of humanitarian material and medical equipment through Rafah crossing, and prevent other materials like food, and other material…the Egyptian cooperation , in general, is appreciated but we hope to see more flexibility in opening Rafah crossing to bring big quantities of various relief items. Meanwhile, we want to remind that, after all Rafah crossing is an Egyptian-Palestinian crossing and not a Palestinian-Israeli crossing.

- The Egyptian position says that Egypt should abide by the agreements it signed with the quartet and the Europeans in relation to the management of Rafah crossing that organize the entry of assistance and individuals…Do you think that Egypt could play a

Yes, I think that Egypt could do something in this regard, and it did that actually when it opened Rafah crossing permanently aftermath the massacre of Freedom Flotilla and the entry of convoys became faster and easier.

I think that Egypt could make a new reality on the ground, if it wants to do so, but the Egyptian arrangements in this concern are linked to political agendas on the Palestinian-Palestinian reconciliation , and e know who is delaying this reconciliation..I mean here basically Israel, the US who are practicing pressures on Abu Mazaen ( PA president) and on the Palestinian Authority, because they want to prevent any rapprochement between the brothers in Fatah and Hamas , which is not in their interest.

Concerning the Rafah crossing, there is no justification to the Egyptian arrangements to close it, and Egypt can keep it open according to previous agreements with the Europeans, and while Israel says it withdrew from Gaza Strip how it could have any agreement or coordination of whatever nature regarding the control arrangement in Rafah crossing !? I think so that to solve any security problems we could develop the crossing to ensure borders safety and the sovereignty of both the Egyptian and the Palestinian sides, thus allowing the entry all kinds of humanitarian assistance.

- Through your tour in Gaza, what are your estimations for the needs of Gaza ?

Gaza needs everything , while the Israeli occupation is preventing almost everything , even for “ the coriander and fruit “ are prohibited from entering the Gaza Strip..and talking about Gaza nowadays is talking about demolished homes and piles of rubbles with many people still living in the tents …the infrastructure is completely destroyed and there is a big need for food, medicine, medial assistance, transport means, building material, first row material , and necessary material to reform the agricultural lands that were largely bulldozed by the occupation.

We also noticed, through our tour ,when we visited the prisons, that there was accumulation of prisoners in very small spaces, sometimes more than 30 prisoners in small rooms , so this is an indication about the dire need to rebuild Gaza and to build new residential units and other facilities.

- May be you faced some problems with the convoy of “Miles of Smiles I” regarding the shipping and contracting arrangements with the specialized companies, in this concern, .. how would you overcome these problems with the future convoys ?

-We always try to overcome any problem, and in which regards the shipping arrangements , they are normal , but the main problem is still the Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza, besides the entry conditions of relief material and convoys that we hope to be ended and that the oppressive siege to be lifted.

- Is there a third “ Miles of Smiles “ convoy in the future ?

-Definitely , there will be Miles of Smiles III, IV, and V , as long as the occupation and Gaza siege is there…our problem is only with the occupation..all the problems of our people are linked with the occupation like poverty and starvation, we do not have natural disasters like floods or drought that causes starvation ..but the only reason of the disastrous situation is the continued occupation of our country.

The relief convoys will continue, as long as this situation to help the Palestinian people is needed , and we seek to develop, and to increase our efforts in this regard in the future.

Ab.

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