BALLOZA CHECKPOINT, Egypt — Egyptian soldiers in north Sinai prevented an aid convoy of activists from reaching the Rafah border crossing and entering the Gaza Strip Saturday, an AFP correspondent reported.
An army officer at the Balloza checkpoint, one of many along the desert highway to Rafah said that the security situation in the restive peninsula was too unstable to allow the convoy of 11 buses and 500 activists to pass.
There was a brief scuffle between some activists and soldiers but no arrests were made.
The report was confirmed on twitter by numerous people who were part of the convoy.
The Egyptian army forced our buses to turn to the way back to Cairo, allowing other cars to pass, but not the solidarity convoy #Egypt2gaza
— salma said (@salmasaid) July 19, 2014
Egypt usually keeps the crossing closed, citing a counter-insurgency operation against militants in north Sinai, but has allowed entry to Palestinians wounded in the 12-day conflict between Hamas and Israel.
At least 337 Palestinians and three Israelis have died in the unrest, the third conflict to erupt in and around Gaza in seven years. Israel has been pounding the Gaza Strip with air strikes for the past 12 days as part of a military operation aimed at putting an end to terrorist rocket fire on Israeli civilians. Hamas and other organizations have fired over 1,300 rockets aimed at Israeli civilian population centers since the beginning of the operation.
The Egyptian military had earlier said it was sending 500 tons of food and medical aid to the blockaded enclave.
Hamas has refused to accept a ceasefire with Israel until it receives guarantees that border crossings to Gaza — all but one under Israeli control — will be opened.