The fourth Viva Palestina (VP) land convoy, dubbed Viva Palestina 5, is in Syria during its journey "to break the siege of Gaza." As it has previously, the group has met with Hamas officials and received warm welcomes from radical organizations in a variety of cities along the way.
In Istanbul on September 27, Viva Palestina was hosted by the Hamas-tied Turkish organization IHH, currently under investigation by the U.S. State Department. Viva Palestina partnered with IHH during its 3rd convoy, which arrived in Gaza in January.
At a press conference, IHH head Bulent Yildirim and Viva Palestina leader George Galloway spoke as Palestinian, Turkish and Hamas flags waved behind them.
During the convoy's stay in Turkey for several days, they visited the graves of two activists killed on IHH's Mavi Marmara ship during the May 31st flotilla raid. Israeli intelligence reports and evidence collected from the ship indicate that the violence carried out by the IHH activists against the Israeli Defense Soldiers was premeditated.
At one grave site, convoy spokesman Zaher Birawi said:
"We feel that we are not alone. And we are going towards the freedom of Palestine. And Inshallah by giving our effort, and our money, our support, is a step towards the freedom of Palestine. But when the others, like our shaheed, and his brothers, they give their blood, their lives, for the sake of Palestine, that means the life of the occupation is shortening" [Emphasis added].
Birawi is a Hamas operative from the Palestinian territories who fled to Britain. In the UK, Birawi serves in leadership positions for Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated groups. Birawi also served as the convoy spokesperson for Viva Palestina's last convoy, and collaborates with Muhammad Sawalha, formerly a senior Hamas activist in the West Bank, and a wanted operative by Israel.
The convoy was greeted by thousands of supporters upon its arrival in Syria on Saturday. Flags of Turkey, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Syrian Socialist National Party flew. Talal Nasser, the Hamas spokesman in Syria, also welcomed the convoy.
On Tuesday, Galloway led a convoy delegation to Damascus, where they met with Hamas leader Khalid Mishaal, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. "Don't feel disappointed that the siege still exists," Mishaal told the delegation. "Politically it is already finished due to your efforts. The siege will continue to be broken."