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EGYPT: Activists barred from Gaza 'freedom march'

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Nearly 300 French activists camped outside their embassy in Cairo to protest against Egyptian authorities' prevention of their journey to El Arish, where they were scheduled to take part in a "freedom march" showing solidarity with Palestinians under siege in Gaza.

The protesters, who were supposed to leave for the coastal city on Sunday morning, were surprised when buses they rented for the trip didn't show up. They were later told by the bus company that authorities had banned the trip.

Consequently, the protesters blocked the road outside the French Embassy, demanding the buses, before security forces threatened them with water cannons.

The French campaigners are part of a larger group of no less than 1,300 activists traveling to Egypt from 42 countries in order to take part in the Gaza Freedom March. Egyptian authorities previously said that none of them would be allowed to carry out the march or enter the Palestinian enclave through its borders.

Authorities have similarly stopped a number of Americans from marking the first anniversary of the Gaza bombings by renting boats on the Nile River. Another commemoration of the war in Gaza was broken up by police at the Kasr El Nil Bridge near downtown Cairo.

Meanwhile, organizers of the freedom march announced that 38 participants were briefly detained by security forces at their hotel inside El Arish (30 miles away from the Gaza border) and at the city's bus station on Sunday afternoon.

"Egyptian security forces eventually yielded, letting most of the marchers leave the hotel, but did not permit them to leave the town. When two younger delegates attempted to leave Al-Arish, authorities stopped their taxi and unloaded their luggage," a statement from the organizers said.

March participants confirmed that they are trying to persuade the Egyptian government to let them proceed with their initial plan. Their efforts included asking for the Arab League's support, as well as visiting a number of foreign embassies and the Egyptian presidential palace to deliver an appeal to President Hosni Mubarak.

Nonetheless, more than 30 Americans were detained by Egyptian security forces inside the U.S. Embassy today while they were seeking help to facilitate negotiations with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in gaining entrance to Gaza with their humanitarian aid.

When asked about the motive behind such detention, Gael Murphy, who's taking part in the march, said she was told by Egyptian officers that the American Embassy called for the officers' help to protect its premises.

Alongside Israel, Egypt has been imposing a blockade on Gaza since Hamas took over the strip in 2007.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Palestinian children near the Egyptian border. Credit: Agence France-Presse

Comments () | Archives (7)

To me, Muhammed, a massacre is when somebody blows up a pizzeria, a disco, a Seder, or any of a number of bus lines. Usually by one operative (i.e. homicide bomber) who is able to take out the lives of 20+ folks. Operation Cast Lead was a war battle that took 3 weeks to conduct, and in direct response to 8 years of aggressive missile launchings against Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah (funded and supported by Iran). So, please, be honest with yourself, and quit trying to redefine the English language for your own political gain.

Sorry, Hope et al, but Israel has let in food and medicine before, during, and after Operation Cast Lead and the 8 years of 10,000 missile strikes against Israel that preceded this action. Instead of believing everything you read from biased sources (a biased source in this case doesn't spend time actually investigating the hearsay of accusers) do some research. You will find that before Cast Lead, food and medicine was brought in from Israel; that during Cast Lead, injured Gazans were treated in Israel; and after Cast Lead, the people of Sderot spearheaded a national food and medicine drive to help the people of Gaza.

It's a shame that the LA Times, by promoting your ignorant messages, has a hand in confusing the general public about the realities of the Middle East.

So why is it Egypt nor Israel will let in the food, cloths and medical aid to those in Gaza? Is food, clothing or medical aid dangerous? Imagine not having enough food or heat for the winter months. Little to no hydro. No home. Israel is breaking International Laws, UN Resolutions, and World court Rulings.
Why is the rest of the world sitting idly by doing little to nothing.
Call your leaders and tell them to do something so more innocent children in Gaza do not die from this cruelty inflicted upon them. This is beyond cruel. This is murder in the first degree.

I think it's ok to say Gaza massacre not Gaza bombings.

amazing efforts by honorable people. reminds me of the anti-apartheid movement. maybe someday israel and egypt will no longer get US support for their illegal and criminal treatment of the Palestinian people.

Gael Murphy is a co-founder of CodePink and one of the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March.

Just heard Egypt has agrees to let 100 of the 1400 international Gaza freedom marchers into Gaza.


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