Del Mar couple on convoy allowed to enter Gaza

Del Mar residents Faith Attaguile, 63, and Larry Hampshire, 78, traveling as part of a convoy to Gaza delivering medical supplies and aid, reported from Egypt that their group was attacked by Egyptian plain-clothes police on the night of Jan. 5.

Attaguile said she and Hampshire, along with four other Americans and two Kuwaiti citizens, were threatened, punched, pushed and surrounded by hundreds of Egyptian police officers wielding clubs.

The group was outside the locked, gated Egyptian port compound of Al-Arish where the 200-vehicle, 400-person Viva Palestina convoy was being held by Egyptian authorities while waiting for permission to enter Gaza, a report from Attaguile said.

A televised report from Al Jazeera showed the convoy entering Gaza on Jan. 9 after protests on the Gaza side of the border against Egypt that left many injured and one Egyptian guard dead.

According to Attaguile, the convoy, which left Istanbul during the second week in December, had traveled 4,000 miles through 11 countries by the time it reached Egypt. It was composed of ambulances and trucks carrying medical supplied and other humanitarian aid for Gaza residents.

For almost an hour, Attaguile said, her group was in the midst of the police riot. She said the attack ended when Viva Palestina’s spokesperson and British parliamentarian George Galloway came out of the compound.

Attaguile said that Hampshire sustained a perforated eardrum, while she and two other women were roughed up and threatened with bodily harm.

A report sent Sunday from Attaguile, who was in Istanbul, said the couple was threatened with arrest on Jan. 8 as they left Gaza after delivering the aid. She said that upon reentering Egypt, the group they were traveling with was “forced onto ancient buses guarded by Egyptian police and driven through the night by police escort directly from Rafah to the Cairo Airport.”

There two members of their group were arrested and the passports of the seven others were confiscated, she said.

Eight hours later the prisoners were released and the passports returned. The group soon after boarded a Turkish Airlines flight.

“All were relieved to be leaving Egyptian soil,” Attaguile wrote of the group.