Abu Safiyyah’s account of the journey to Al-Arish and the events that followed

Assalamu Alaykum wr wb

We’ve finally boarded the plane to Al Arish after a long night and many hours of waiting. After arriving at the airport last night, we were told that there was a mechanical fault with the earlier flight and it has landed in Damascus for repairs. (follow the tweet from last night). We’re not exactly sure what the problem was with the plane, but possibly we will found out more details upon arrival in Al Arish.
We then headed back to the compound in dissapointment and although all we wanted to do was to board the flight, the only thing on my mind was sleep. I was still recovering from the food
poisoning that I had from suffered earlier on in the day. The journey to and from the airport was lathargic as I hadn’t eaten for a while and felt very weak. When we arrived back in the compound, there was mention by other convoyers that a plane was being sourced from Beirut, but I wasn’t that confident we were leaving until atleast the following day.
At half two in the morning, we were woken up by loud banging on the rusty metal door of our huts saying that we’ll be leaving at three, so we woke up and hesitantly climbed out of our sleeping bags and got ready to board the bus. Still I was feeling very weak and tired as the paracetamol I took earlier before bed hadn’t yet taken effect. It was about almost an hour after we arrived at the buses the drivers showed up, and by this time people became frustrated from waiting in such a tired state.
The airport was about 30 minutes drive from the compound and as we arrived we anticipated a 2 hour wait, but we were not ready for a 6 hour delay. As you can imagine, patience was wearing extremely thin, and the tiredness and fatigue was visible on the faces of most people. Alhumdulillah I managed to crash out on the foyet floor and get a good few hours sleep.
The airport in Latakiyyah is very small, and with a large group pf people from the convoy waiting, we ended up blocking all the foyet walk way as people were scattered all over the place trying to catch up on some sleep. At the moment we’re about 20ish minutes from our destination, Al Arish, and we are expecting a delay at the other end as news of the former groups has reached us that they waited 5 hours for their passports.
13:00 Over the mediteranean towards AL Arish
From the different events that took place today, to do it justice and descibe how it unfolded in detail I should really dedicate chapters to it rather than trying to explain what happens in a few short paragraphs. Unfortunataly I am unable to dedicate that amount of time to it, but I will try to summarise the events.
When we were finally re-united with our vans and the rest of the convoy the brothers who were present on the second flight, yesterday night, that encoutered problems explained to me what had happened. When the plane took off from Latakiyyah, a large bang was heard coming from the engine and ten minutes later three other large bangs along with sparks were seen coming from the wings where the engines were mounted. It was then that engines of the plane cut out in mid-flight and the pilot was forced to land the plane in Damascus. One passenger of the flight said that it was only when he saw the fear clear on the hostesses did he realise the scale of the problem. When he saw them in a state of panic, their hands shaking and ensuring everyone has their seatbelt on, he turned around to other passengers and advised them to make tawbah (repentance). Upon turning around he found them already praying and making dua’. It was a wake up call for most people on that plane, except those who are heedless. The pilot managed to land safely in Damascus, alhumdulillah, where the plane was taken for repairs and replaced. It was a long wait for us once we arrived in the airport of Al Arish, where we found 5 members from the Turkish contingency, and 2 from the British who were not handed back their passports. One common tactic they use is to try to usher the main bulk of the group and leave behind a few which causes them to be vulnerable. It’s at these time that unity is key, and we often combat this tactic of theirs by refusing to leave and staying together. It often ends up in a protest where we stay behind until all members have passed safely or we stay until that happans.
Eventually after a lot of negotiations these two members from the previous group were let through, and then it was our turn to play the waiting game until we were all let through. We landed approximately 1.20 and did not leave until about almost 7pm. It was a nice feeling being reunited with our vehicles and our luggage as we were all a bit weary whether we would make it to egypt. The atmosphere when pulling into the compound was one of jubilation as all people were let in and no one was left in the hands of the authority. It wasn’t too long after arriving, that we started demonstrating for the permission of all vehicles to enter Gaza to be given. People from the convoy made their way to gates of the convoy chanting slogans and trying to get the authorities to
meet our demands. The whole area was sectioned with riot police and a large tanker was positioned to obscure any view that outsiders may have. As the events were unfolding it was clear to me that this would be a repeat of the last convoy in Al Arish and the nightmare was to be concluded.
It wasn’t too long after demonstrating that we were told that negotiations were taking place between Egyptian and Turkish officials. Being told this changed the mood of the convoyers and we were now demonstrating peacefully, sitting down reading Quran and making dua’ on the loud-speaker to try to remind ourselves and those whose hearts are inclined to the remembrance of Allah.
The convoyers remained in this state for a good hour until we noticed non-uniformed people behind the riot police. This caused much concern for us as we knew we were about to be attacked shortly as this is the same dirty tactic that was used on us last year at Al Arish. As the moments went by, the non-uniformed mob was increasing in number and some confrontation could be heard in the distance so we stood up immediately and linked arms. The riot police boxed us forming a square like formation with a section to the far right where they poured in troops upon mass trapping us with our backs towards the compound entrance and walls. Effectively we were cornered with our backs to the compound wall, and the entrance to the compound was restricted as a large arctic lorry was parked stopping the gate from opening full so that the riot police would now enter and mow us down.
During the arrival of the non-uniformed mob, some member of the American contingency were returning to the compound after they went to buy some food. One version of what happend is that as they returned they came through the right hand side which was in the distance and was not in sight of those directly outside the gates. The American convoyers decided to link arms so they could make their way through the riot police and reach the compound. The police seized the opportunity and began attacking the American members of the convoy, it was the moment they had waited for as they knew this would instigate a reaction from the convoy members and turn into chaos and havoc. At this point the people directly outside the gate heard the scuffols in the distance from the far right hand side and could see the battons being raised and swung with such ferocity upon our brothers.
A principle of many of the brothers on the convoy, not all unfortunately, is that if someone is in trouble, we’ll stay by them and support them, and this case is no exception. So with no hesitation, members reacted and made their way to help those being assaulted by the Riot police  when all of a sudden the police came in from all directions including the non-uniformed mob and started unleashing rocks and striking us with their sticks. Pepper spray was being used, people dedicated to throwing sand could also be seen hurling large amounts into the air. Sand/pepper bullets were used as some people say they were shot at with some type of bullets. The atmosphere was horrid and I heard the impact of someone being struck in the face with a stone and falling to the ground. We all scurried back into the compound gates which at this point was a bottle neck due to the truck restricting it, which was a big mistake. People were choking and crying ‘I can’t see’ from the pepper spray.
Throughout the clash members from the convoy were pulled into the ranks of the Egyptian police and were viciously and savagely beaten. One brother almost had 3 teeth knocked out and needed stitches to the face. He seriously thought he wouldn’t survive the way he was being attacked and started reciting his shahadah. He was later taken into hospital and treated.
After we withdrew into our compound the mob and police were pelting stones at us which soon turned into an exchange of stones being thrown from both sides. They advanced right close up to the gates and continued to thrown stones deep into the compound, striking many convoyers. We knew that they intended to cause as much injury as they could as they showed no signs of backing down, even once we went into the compound. We feared had we not resisted they would have come in and battered many of the brothers and sisters.
The mob throwing stones and fighting was something that we anticipated as people saw them prior to the incident gathering stones on the sides, ready for their usage. The actual area were the clash took place is pure sand, and the amount of stones thrown at us also supports this claim. The stone throwing confrontation went on for some time and the sky was literally raining rocks, and for those who have never encountered anything like this, the ferocity of a rock fight may not be appreciated. This is my second experience of being attacked by rocks and prior to that I would have never imagined how fierce it can be. Coming to Al Arish was something I wasn’t looking forward to, especially after my three stitches to my head last year from these types of attacks.
Eventually the stone hurling calmed down and the situation became diffused however tensions were still high as many people were injured and there was much panic and chaos whilst trying to heal the wounded. One doctor from the Jordanian group was attending to the injured however it was a cumbersome task trying to source what he needed, as all the items that he requested had to be located
from various vehicles and to add to the chaos there was a language barrier and the people who had medical supplies didn’t have any knowledge of products.
After a long wait and much complication, some injured were taken to hospital and treated. For many people sleeping was not an option as we feared that the mob may enter the compound and attack us again, so many brothers took the initiative to stay awake and keep watch. It was only after Fajr that we decided the situation was safe, so we prayed and retired for the day. It was a really long day and took its toll on the members of the convoy, but alhumdulillah with hardship comes ease.
At the moment six members of the convoy are being held by the authorities, and negotiations are ongoing to try and have them handed back. (We now know they were released alhamdulillah).
Abu Safiyyah

Posted on January 6, 2010, in Updates and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Allahu mustan!

    May Allah (Swt) reward all of the brothers and sisters for their patience throughout this whole journey. We, back here in the UK have been watching what has unfolded and have been making a lot of dua for you all.

    It truly is sickening the way the Egyptians have reacted towards a group who only wish to help those in need. Allah is Al Adl and justice will be served to these idiots either in this life or the next.

    May Allah also guide the many non-muslims on the convoy who experienced this. Ameen.

    We are all so glad that you all finally entered Gaza and the aid has reached our brothers and sisters. As Allah says in Surah Tariq: ‘Verily, they are buy plotting a plot. And I am planning a plan.’ Ayah 15-16.

    And Allah’s plan has and will always prevail.
    Umm Raiyaan

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