As a group of Israeli peace activists gathered near the Erez crossing on the northern border of the Gaza Strip, 1200 international activists with the ‘Gaza Freedom March’ held a rally in Cairo to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Israeli invasion of Gaza. The Cairo march was attacked by Egyptian police, injuring several demonstrators.After over 1200 international delegates with the ‘Gaza Freedom March’ were denied entry into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday (100 members of the delegation were allowed to enter), the group organized a protest march and rally in Cairo Thursday, which was attacked by Egyptian riot police.
The Egyptian police an security forces used excessive against members of the Gaza Freedom March, while some activists were forcibly detained in hotels around the town of Liala, while other marchers were forced into pens in Tahir square.
There were several reports of Egyptian police brutality as the legal hotline of the March was flooded with calls pertaining kicking women and forcing them to the ground, and dragging them.
Several international activists were injured after being violently attacked by the Egyptian police, and at least one person suffered a broken rib.
The Gaza Freedom March was organized to focus attention on the one-year mark since Israel’s 22-day assault, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, injured more than 5,000. Although the invasion technically ended, the effects on the ground have only worsened in the past 12 months. No re-building materials have been allowed in and more than 80 percent of Gazans are now dependent on handouts for food.
The marchers had planned to enter Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah Crossing on Dec. 27, then to join with an estimated 50,000 Palestinian residents to march to Erez Crossing into Israel to peacefully demand an end to the siege. However, the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced just days before the hundreds of delegates began arriving in Cairo that the march would not be allowed to
It cited ongoing tensions at the border. When marchers demonstrated against the decision, the government cracked down, often using heavily armed riot police to encircle and intimidate the nonviolent marchers.
Ali Abunimah,co-founder of the electronic Intifada website,and a participant in the March, said that the pressure should be kept up and protests should continue in order to build international support to end the unjust siege of the Gaza Strip.