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Egypt Allows Aid Convoy into Gaza

GAZA, June 19 (Xinhua) — Egypt allowed a humanitarian aid convoy into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip Sunday evening, Palestinian officials said.

Members of the aid convoy "Miles of Smiles" are greeted by Palestinians after crossing from Egypt into Gaza Strip through Rafah border crossing, June 19, 2011 (Xinhua/Khaled Omar)

The convoy comprises 62 activists, most of them Europeans, as well as South African, Tunisian and Lebanese nationals, carrying ambulances, medicines and medical equipment.

A ship named Miles of Smiles carried the aid and docked on Saturday in the Egyptian port city of El-Arish, some 45 km away from the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Sinai.

The convoy came a year after Israel relaxed its blockade on the Gaza Strip, imposed since Hamas took over the coastal enclave in 2007. Under the new Israeli policies towards Gaza, consumer products have become available here but Israel kept withholding some kinds of construction and raw materials.

Israel eased the sanctions to face international criticism that followed its attack on a Turkish-led flotilla bound for Gaza. Nine activists were killed in the Israeli commando forces’ raid.

Welcoming and receiving members of the convoy, Ahmed al-Kurd, a Hamas official, criticized Egypt for keeping restrictions on the movement of the Palestinians through the Rafah crossing.

Earlier this month, Egypt said it took measures to allow Gazans to cross easily into its territories. “There are six buses waiting since the morning to cross into Egypt … let the borders open and let the siege ends,” al-Kurd said.

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