Aid convoy heads for Gaza

A CONVOY of vehicles from Dewsbury and Batley has gone on a humanitarian mission to Gaza.

MPs Mike Wood and Shahid Malik addressed a crowd of about 100 people in Dewsbury on Friday before the vehicles loaded with goods set off to join the Viva Palestina convoy.

Mr Malik said: "I think everybody has seen on TV screens the terrible tragedy that's afflicting the people of Gaza.

"Not only will these people directly benefit from the truckloads of aid going, but also the idea that 5,000 miles away in a place called Dewsbury and Batley people care enough to drive trucks will lift their hearts."

The event, organised by Respect MP George Galloway, is said to offer practical help and raise awareness of the plight of the people of Gaza throughout the world.

Among those attending the launch were Dewsbury councillors, representatives of local mosques and of Warwick Road School, whose pupils had collected goods for the convoy.

Some of the vans also had collages and drawings in the windows designed by local children. The convoy included six vans and an ambulance with sleeping bags, generators and torches.

The journey of nearly 5,000 miles is expected to take around 17 days, by ferry and over land, through Europe and Northern Africa.

Imran Bin Abu, of Dewsbury, is driving one of the trucks and leading the Dewsbury and Batley part of the convoy. He said: "The response and the generosity of people has been fantastic. We're ready and raring to go.

"We're looking forward to the hands-on experience and we want to be there to see what the people are going through."

Among the items are shoeboxes containing children's toys.

Imran added: "When a bomb is coming the children over there can tell whether it's from a tank, plane or boat – they've forgotten how to play.

"We hope these new toys will help them learn to play again."

Speaking by phone from Spain on Tuesday evening, he said: "We're about to board the ferry to Morocco and we've been told there are hundreds of vehicles in Libya waiting to join us.

"We've had a couple of breakdowns but people have been helping us. It's cold at night but we knew what we were up against. We're not here for a holiday."

The convoy is the result of efforts by volunteers across Dewsbury and Batley.

Members of the Jame Mosque at Henry Street, Batley, went door to door collecting goods to be taken to Gaza in the convoy.

Mayor of Kirklees Coun Karam Hussain welcomed the crowd and thanked everyone who has supported the convoy.

He said: "Our communities have made a tremendous effort to raise money and provide basic essentials for the people of Gaza."

The Kirklees Solidarity Group, an alliance of organisations from Batley and Dewsbury, has been working to raise awareness and cash to help the Palestinians.

So far they have raised about 134,000.