Friday, October 29, 2010

The Viva Palestina convoy arrived in the Gaza Strip and was given festive ceremonies by senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad figures

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

1. On the afternoon of Thursday, October 21, the Viva Palestina convoy entered the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing. It comprised 150 vehicles and 350 participants, most of whom arrived in El Arish by air.1 The convoy brought aid to the Gaza Strip valued at $5 million. Convoy activists remained in the Gaza Strip for three days, during which they were feted at various ceremonies and events organized and directed by the de facto Hamas administration. 2. The de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip conducted a media campaign to use the convoy as a lever to improve its image in international and Arab public opinion, defame Israel and exert pressure on it achieve a unilateral end to the so-called "siege" of the Gaza Strip. Convoy activists, especially those from the Arab-Muslim world, were included in ceremonies and events which were clearly Hamas-Islamist in character (On the other hand, the European members of the convoy, who were in the minority after the Middle East contingents arrived, made sure to keep a low media profile.)

3. The convoy activists met with senior Hamas figures, headed by Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration. During a sermon he called Israel ("the occupation") "a cancerous growth on the living body of the Arab nation" and emphasized that Palestine was and would remain Palestinian, Arab and Muslim. To soften the image of the Hamas administration, Fathi Hamad, interior minister, said that Hamas had released dozens of criminals as a gesture to the convoy and in accordance with the request of its moving spirit, George Galloway. The prisoners were released in a festive ceremony on October 23 (Safa News Agency, October 23, 2010).

4. Members of the Turkish delegation, who did not reveal their organizational affiliations (in our assessment, most of them belonged to IHH), were taken by commanders of the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to visit its positions. The PIJ's website posted pictures of the Turks, who joined PIJ operatives and were photographed with them holding weapons, wearing uniforms and decorated with PIJ headbands. The pictures were posted on the website of the Jerusalem Battalions, the PIJ's military wing, and removed after a short period of time.

5. Around noon on October 24 the members of the convoy left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing and held a press conference organized by convoy leader Kevin Ovenden. He reported that Viva Palestina was planning another convoy, this one to be called Lifeline 6, which would arrive in the Gaza Strip in the near future (Safa News Agency, October 24, 2010).

Ismail Haniya welcomes the convoy with calls for the annihilation of the State of Israel

6. Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration, accompanied the members of the convoy and participated in a number of events held in their honor. One of the main events was the October 22 sermon delivered in the Al-Shati mosque. Present at the time were convoy spokesman Zaher Birawi (whose entrance was banned by the Egyptian authorities but who somehow managed to enter the Gaza Strip); Khalil al-Khaya, leader of the Hamas faction in the Palestinian Legislative Council; Ahmed Yussuf, head of the "governmental" committee to break the "siege;" Popular Resistance Committees spokesman Abu Mujahed; Osama al-Muzeini, senior Hamas figure; and Hamas spokesmen Fawzi Barhoum and Sami Abu Zuhri, and others.

7. Speaking live at the event on Al-Aqsa TV, Ismail Haniya welcomed the members of the convoy and thanked them for their efforts. He reiterated Hamas' familiar positions as he verbally attacked Israel:


The arrival of the convoy, he said, was a step along the road to "the liberation of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque, the restoration of the territories of Palestine and the lifting of the siege of the Gaza Strip."

The arrival of the convoy's activists "proved" to the "occupation" that it was both hated and isolated.

The "occupation" [i.e., Israel] was "a cancerous growth on the living body of the Arab nation."

He criticized the UN Security Council and expressed solidarity with the activists who did not manage to enter the Gaza Strip [i.e., those whose entrance was prevented by the Egyptians].

He reiterated Hamas' refusal to recognize the existence of a Jewish state in Palestine. He said that "Palestine" was and would remain Palestinian, Arab and Muslim.

8. After the prayer, convoy spokesman Zaher Birawi, a Hamas activist from Britain, delivered a short speech in which he praised the population of the Gaza Strip and promised that he would return again and again until the siege was lifted. Those present in the mosque cheered after his speech, shouting "Allahu Akbar" and "We will redeem you Al-Aqsa with our lives and blood" (Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV, October 22, 2010).

(Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV, October 23, 2010).

9. On the evening October 22 a festive ceremony was held in honor of the convoy's participants at the Rashad al-Shawa Center in Gaza, attended by senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad figures. Convoy spokesman Zaher Birawi and Muhammad Sawalha (two Hamas activists living in Britain), as well as other activists, expressed their appreciation. The last speaker was Ismail Haniya, who welcomed the assembled audience and said that the arrival of the convoy was "a continuation of the Palestinian victory in Operation Cast Lead." He called it a historic moment, the end of the era in which Israel received international support. He appealed to members of the convoy and asked them to continue their actions until the "siege" was broken. He said it would be broken and that the "occupation" would end through the convoys and shaheeds (martyrs). He called for more overland, sea and air convoys from around the globe, until the "siege" was lifted. He also praised the 17 activists headed by convoy initiator George Galloway, whose entrance into the Gaza Strip had been prevented by Egypt, and again proclaimed Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The convoy participants honored.
The convoy participants honored. Birawi sits in the center, next to Mahmoud al-Zahar.
Muhammad Sawalha is apparently next to him (
Kevin Ovenden, extreme leftist activist from Britain, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara. He replaced George Galloway as head of the convoy after Galloway's entrance to Egypt was denied. Right: Muhammad Sawalha, who reached the Gaza Strip with the delegation
Left: Kevin Ovenden, extreme leftist activist from Britain, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara. He replaced George Galloway as head of the convoy after Galloway's entrance to Egypt was denied. Right: Muhammad Sawalha, who reached the Gaza Strip with the delegation (

Praise for Hamas and Mavi Marmara shaheeds

10. On October 23 the convoy activists paid a visit to the Sheikh Radwan cemetery. A ceremony was held in which the activists mixed earth they had brought with them from the graves of the Turkish activists who had been killed in the confrontation with the IDF with earth from the graves of Hamas leaders (Ahmed Yassin, Abd Rantisi, Sayid Siyyam). Mahmoud al-Zahar, who led the ceremony, said that there would always be shaheeds and praised the shaheeds who had been killed aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Solidarity meeting of Turkish activists with the military wing
of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad

11. The visit to the Gaza Strip was used by the Turkish delegation to demonstrate solidarity with the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Delegation members were careful not to openly identify themselves to the media as belonging to IHH. However, before they left for the Middle East they were received by IHH head Bülent Yildirim, who during a ceremony in Istanbul called on Egypt to allow the convoy free entry.

12. Members of the Turkish delegation toured several Palestinian Islamic Jihad positions with commanders of the Jerusalem Battalions, the PIJ's military wing. During the tour one of the Turks said that Muslims (i.e., the PIJ) trusted them to struggle against "the criminal Zionist entity" and that he was proud to meet them. He said that the entire Turkish nation, like the Arabs and all Muslims, were praying for their victory and supported them (Jerusalem Battalions Ilam Ghaza forum, quoted by the official website of the Jerusalem Battalions, October 26,2010).

13. In addition to their statements, pictures were posted on the PIJ forum of members of the Turkish delegation wearing camouflage uniforms and headbands, and holding guns. The pictures which were posted on the official Jerusalem Battalions website were removed a short time after they appeared. In any event, the faces of the delegation members were obscured in the original but were circled and marked with an arrow with the Arabic word "delegation."2 The pictures were the following:

Solidarity meeting of Turkish activists with the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Meetings with the Delegations

14. In addition to the ceremonies, senior Hamas figures met with delegations from the Arab countries who had arrived with the convoy:


Ismail Haniya met with 140 Algerian activists. He thanked them for the efforts invested by Algeria in the Palestinian cause and said that the Palestinians were learning from the Algerian people, who had lived under French occupation for 130 years. Abd al-Rizaq al-Maqri, head of the Algerian delegation, said that the Algerian nation was entirely supportive of the Palestinians.

Ismail Haniya also met with 70 activists from Jordan. Abd al-Fatah al-Kilani, head of the Jordanian delegation, said that they supported the positions of Haniya's administration, which had adopted the "resistance" [i.e., terrorism] as its path.

Senior Hamas figures hosted the Tunisian delegation. Yousef Farhat, Hamas spokesman for the central Gaza Strip, welcomed them. Ahmed al-Kakhlawi, head of the delegation, said they had come to support the Gaza Strip, stressed the necessity to complete the jihad against the "occupation" and denounced the negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

A ceremony to lay the corner stone for a hospital was held in the Jabaliya refugee camp, attended by senior Hamas figures and the Yemeni delegation (Hamas’ Paltoday website, October 24, 2010). One of the members of the Yemeni delegation was apparently Sheikh al-Idrisi, a member of the Al-Islah faction of the Yemeni Parliament and a Hamas supporter. He was aboard the Mavi Marmara and was photographed waving a large shabaria (dagger) (a picture which gained popularity). During his stay in the Gaza Strip he presented the shabaria, or a similar one, to Ismail Haniya.

Ismail Haniya
Left: Sheikh al-Idrisi presents Ismail Haniya with a shabaria (dagger), possibly the one he was waving aboard the Mavi Marmara. Right: Ismail Haniya proudly shows off his present (

1 Further information about Egypt's refusal to allow 17 of the convoy's activists into its territory will shortly appear in an ITIC bulletin .

2 Palestinian Islamic Jihad sources were quick to respond to the pictures, saying that they were taken as "souvenirs" (Ma'an News Agency, October 26, 2010).

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