The 1,360 peace activists from around the world currently on their way to Egypt will find the border to the Gaza Strip closed to them, say Egyptian officials.
The Gaza Freedom March Steering Committee said Monday that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry informed them that the Rafah border will be closed over the coming weeks, into January, citing escalating tensions on the Gaza-Egypt border. The Ministry did not give details, but the ‘escalating tension’ is likely a reference to a Palestinian attack on an Egyptian border guard several days ago.
March participants told the Egyptian authorities that they understood the risks involved in the aid caravan, and were willing to take the risk.
According to the organizers, “Although we consider this as a setback, it is something we’ve encountered—and overcome–before. No delegation, large or small, that has entered Gaza over the past 12 months has received a final OK before arriving at the Rafah border. Most delegations were discouraged from even heading out of Cairo to Rafah. Some had their buses stopped on the way. Some have been told outright that they could not go into Gaza. But after public and political pressure, the Egyptian government changed its position and let them pass.”
The group has been organizing for months to break the siege on Gaza on the one-year anniversary of the Israeli invasion of Gaza which claimed over 1400 Palestinian lives (4 Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinians during the Israeli assault).
Organizers have called on their supporters to phone, fax and email Egyptian embassies and missions all over the world to put pressure on the Egyptian government to let the international delegation enter Gaza and let the Gaza Freedom March proceed.
Many delegates are already in Cairo and more are arriving daily. The Gaza Freedom March was organized to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza caused by the Israeli attack on Gaza a year ago and by the international siege on Gaza.
They hope to bring publicity and international attention to the plight of the 1.5 million people imprisoned in Gaza.