The information below is adapted from a press release by Code Pink.
GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP – A 60-member aid delegation was allowed entry into war-torn Gaza today through the Egyptian border crossing today. Two Grassroots International staff and board members (in the middle of the photo above) are part of the delegation, which includes Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker.
Organized by the peace group CODEPINK and co-sponsored by numerous other groups, including Grassroots International, the delegation was allowed through the Rafah, Egypt crossing in time for International Women’s Day, March 8. While there, it will meet 4 of Grassroots International’s partners including the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society and the Gaza Community Mental Health Program.
The crossing has been closed by the Egyptian government almost continuously since July 2007. However, Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, chairman of the Egyptian Red Crescent (similar to the Red Cross) and president of the National Women’s Committee, communicated her « blessing » of the mission through the Red Crescent team that escorted the delegation through the crossing.
« Given the fact that so many organizations and individuals wanting to help the people of Gaza have been turned away from both the Egyptian and Israeli border crossings, it is amazing that we were ushered through with such ease, » said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK. « We feel extremely fortunate to be able to be with our Gazan sisters on International Women’s Day. But we also want to send a message to the governments of both Egypt and Israel that the borders must be opened to all individuals and organizations. Long-term peace and prosperity are not possible without freedom of movement. »
The Red Crescent estimates that 1,000 truckloads of supplies and other goods are needed every day to meet the needs of the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip. Yet, the UN reports that the daily average has been only 125 truckloads since the borders closed about 18 months ago.
The CODEPINK delegation was invited to the region by the Gender Initiative of the United Nations’ Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a program dedicated to promoting the rights of girls and women in the Gaza Strip. It will meet with social-service organizations and deliver more than 1,000 gift baskets to Gazan women. Also among the participants are Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, who was struck and killed six years ago this month by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to block the demolition of a Gazan home.
« Rachel chose to come to Gaza as a volunteer just as the U.S. invasion of Iraq was beginning, because she believed that the war would worsen the plight of the Palestinian people – and that this is the most forgotten part of the Occupied Territories, » said Cindy Corrie, as the group’s bus prepared to roll through the Rafah crossing. « She discovered, and shared with the world through her writing, that the people of Gaza are struggling to make a good life for their families, and are so in need and worthy of our support. The situation has only gotten worse since then, and Craig and I are devoting our lives to carrying on Rachel’s work, in partnership with organizations such as CODEPINK. »
Before completing the crossing into the Gaza Strip, the delegation sang peace songs both in front of the border gate and inside, by the passport counter.
« We hope our visit makes a lasting impression that neither the Egyptian government nor the people of Gaza will soon forget, » Benjamin said.
For more information and interviews, contact Jean Stevens, national media coordinator, at 508-769-2138 or Medea Benjamin at 018 9561919.