PARIS — THE French humanitarian group Equilibre announced March 8 that it will send a ``peace convoy'' to Gaza, in a bid to convince youth in the former Israeli-occupied territory that peace with Israel was worth the price. The Mideast peace process has stalled after terrroist attacks by militant Palestinian youth led Israel to toughen its stance in negotiations.
``Gaza is at a dramatic point,'' said Alain Michel, Equilibre president. ``Sixty percent of the population ... is younger than 20.... In their view, life in Gaza hasn't changed since peace. It's essential to change the quality of their daily lives.''
Since the Aug. 30, 1993, peace accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, numerous governments have opened offices in Gaza. But the Equilibre initiative is the first major, private commitment since Palestinian self-rule last July, say convoy sponsors.
``We're in a political impasse,'' said Leila Shahid, Palestinian delegate in France. ``The borders have been closed, and that cuts off jobs and creates a sense of isolation. This convoy helps break the isolation.''
The $4 million aid shipment includes sports, educational, and health-care equipment. It is expected to reach Gaza by mid-April.