Gaza Freedom Marchers held up by the Egyptians

December 29, 2009
Richard Kuper

jvp1Jewish Voice for Peace is asking you to send a message to Ahmed Azzam, Palestine Division in Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cairo and Omar Youssef, Egyptian Embassy, Washington DC asking Egypt to let the convoy through.

al-jazeeraOn Al-Jazeera

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Egypt’s controversal Gaza policy

The Egyptian foreign ministry says the Viva Palestina aid convoy to the Gaza Strip must go through the Mediterranean port of Al Arish.

The decision delays the arrival of much needed goods, while criticism continues over its closed border with the territory.

The Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt is the only crossing point into Gaza not subject to Israel’s blockade.

In the past Egypt has helped Palestinians in need to cross the border from Palestine.

However, during Israel’s offensive on the strip at the end of 2008, it would only allow medical supplies in and casualties of war out.

The debate surrounding Cairo’s policy is continuing, as Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh reports.

Egypt blocks US activists’ march

Egyptian security forces have attempted to prevent dozens of US activists from reaching their embassy in Cairo.

Hoping to ask the American ambassador for help in reaching the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, some 41 American citizens instead found themselves surrounded by riot police.

All those rounded up were members of the Gaza Freedom Marchers organisation, a group planning to travel to Gaza to protest an Egyptian and Israeli blockade of the besieged territory.

However, one activist, Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of The Electronic Intifada website, told Al Jazeera that the US embassy did eventually allow US citizens to enter their embassy in groups of ten.

“We met with a political rep. in the embassy, Greg Legrefo, and talked about the dire situation in Gaza and international complicity for more than hour …. but the bottom line is the US supports the siege of Gaza.

“The US Army Corps of Engineers is even providing technical assistance to build an underground wall [to stop the Gaza tunnel networks from operating].”


An impromptu demonstration, reported on the Twitter micro-blogging service, began as soon as police prevented the groups progess on a side street near the embassy, keeping them there for hours.

“We believe the US Embassy asked Egyptian State Security to act against its own citizens and prevent them from entering the Embassy,” Gael Murphy, one of the activists, said.

“We are outraged as US citizens about being detained simply for trying to get to our embassy,” she said.

US embassy spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment.

Organisers of the Gaza Freedom March say 1,300 people from around the world came to Egypt to try to enter Gaza to deliver aid and to participate in a peaceful march protesting the closure of the Gaza Strip’s borders.

Since the activists were told last month that they would not be able to march on Gaza, they have staged a series of small protests around Cairo.

US citizen Hedy Epstein, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, on Monday said she would go on hunger strike to protest Egypt’s refusal to allow the march to proceed.

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