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Galloway plans aid convoy for Gaza

Respect MP George Galloway said today he was "determined" to take 100 vehicles loaded with aid from London to the Palestinian territory to help those affected by the recent conflict.

Speaking at the Gaza Conference in Rochdale Mr Galloway, who is also vice-president of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "I am here to gather support for the convoy.

"There is an urgent need to get aid to the Palestinian people. The convoy will also demonstrate that Britain is not Gordon Brown, it's not the BBC, but to show that, I believe, millions of people care deeply.

"It is an emergency and we have to react in a suitably urgent way and that is what we are doing."

Mr Galloway said that the convoy so far included 24 trucks, six ambulances and one fire engine.

He said: "No-one will send a vehicle that is not filled with items including pyjamas, clothes and blankets.

"I'm determined we will have 100 vehicles."

He said the convoy was supported by trade unions and community organisations and would leave London on February 14.

Mr Galloway said he would be with the convoy when it leaves.

Today's Gaza Conference at Castlemere Community Centre in Tweedale Street, Rochdale, was organised by the Muslim youth organisation the Ramadhan Foundation.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said: "There's about 1,000 people here and we have had speeches from different faith leaders.

"It's one of the largest gatherings Rochdale has seen in regards of the Palestinian issue.

"The aim of today's Gaza Conference was to provide a platform for people to air their views in a peaceful way.

"The atmosphere here has been very sombre."

Earlier today in Manchester around 1,000 people marched from Whitwood Park to Castlefield Arena.

During the march protesters staged a two minute silence and sit down in front of the BBC offices in Oxford Road.

One of the organisers of the march Nahella Ashraf, from Greater Manchester Stop the War Coalition, said: "There were around 30 police officers outside the BBC. I'm not sure what they thought, we weren't planning on doing anything.

"The atmosphere during the march was very positive but people are angry. They are angry towards the BBC. We want the government to cut their ties with the Israeli government and we want our government to send more aid to Gaza."

Yesterday the BBC was criticised after it said it would not screen an emergency appeal for Gaza, after ITV, Channel 4 and Five all announced they would show it.

BBC director general Mark Thompson has rejected a plea from International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander to screen the appeal, warning that a broadcast could compromise the impartiality of the BBC's reporting from the Palestinian territory.

The DEC - which brings together several major aid charities including the British Red Cross, Save the Children and Oxfam - wants the appeal to be broadcast on TV and radio from Monday to help raise millions of pounds for people in need of food, medicines and shelter following Israel's three-week assault on the Palestinian territory.

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