EGYPT: 100 activists depart for Gaza, 1,300 others are not allowed to make trip
Following days of negotiations with and protests against the Egyptian authorities, 100 international activists were allowed to leave the country for Gaza in order to take part in the Gaza Freedom March.
The march, scheduled to include 1,400 campaigners from 42 countries, was to be held to commemorate the first anniversary of Israel's 22-day bombing of the under-siege Gaza Strip, which killed an estimated 1,400 Palestinians by the time it ended early this year.
Participants in the march will try to enter Gaza via the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing, which is the only entry point to the strip not supervised by Israel.
Initially, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced that none of the activists would be permitted to make the journey to Gaza because of security concerns and the "sensitive situation" on the borders.
Nonetheless, a series of protests outside a number of foreign embassies throughout Cairo (including a hunger strike by some of the activists) might have pressured authorities into letting some activists through.
"Two buses with 100 delegates on board left this morning for Gaza," Ann Wright, one of the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March, said on Tuesday. "It is a positive breakthrough. It shows that six days of pressure has worked."
However, the deal, which was seen by many as a partial victory over Egyptian officials, wasn’t met by wide consent from all those taking part in the march.
"For anyone to claim that Egypt was doing us a favor by offering to allow 100 GFM members to go is asinine and baseless," said Roqayah Shams El Din, an American student attending the march.
"The borders must be opened, and as long as Egypt continues to seemingly aid Israel in subjugating the people of Palestine, we will also continue to resist and protest," she added.
Led by British lawmaker George Galloway, the convoy, with 210 trucks of food supplies as well as ambulances, has been stranded for five days in Jordan. Its leaders had been hoping that talks with Egyptian officials would allow entry from Al Aqaba.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry previously announced that Viva Palestina would only be allowed entry via the Mediterranean port of Al Arish, a route that would have been more time-consuming.
The convoy is now expected to head back to Syria before sailing from there to Al Arish.
Gaza has been put under siege by both Egypt and Israel since Hamas took over the strip in 2007.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Activists protest against Egypt's refusal to let them leave for Gaza. Credit: Agence France-Presse