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Gaza Freedom Marchers await entry, keep vigil

December 2009


Starting on New Year’s Eve, the Gaza Freedom March (sponsored by Grassroots International and scores of other organizations) was set up to be an amazing international show of solidarity for the Palestinian people trapped in this small strip of land, still suffering one year after the Israeli bombing campaign.   But things don’t always happen as they are planned.   More than 1,300 international marchers have been denied entry into Gaza by Egyptian officials, thus barring their only practical port of entry (since Israel has blockaded the territory). This even after months of pre-planning, requests to the Egyptian government, appeals internationally to the United Nations and others to allow nonviolent demonstrators to join with nearly 50,000 other nonviolent demonstrators in Gaza. At last report, after the intervention of the first lady of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak,100 people – representing 43 countries and the remaining 1,200-plus remaining behind – may be allowed access.   The responses and ongoing actions tell a powerful story of resistance, solidarity and commitment.   * American activist and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein and other grandmothers participating in the Gaza Freedom March began a hunger strike on Monday December 28. * French would-be march participants surrounded their Embassy in Cairo, seeking support in their quest to join the solidarity event. They in turn have been surrounded by Egyptian military forces. The streets remain blocked as protestors seek passage into Gaza and an end to the Siege. * Egyptian and Israeli authorities have both detained activists in Egypt and Israel respectively, as they seek to break the siege of Gaza. * Activists from across the world are having an opportunity, during their delay in Cairo, to compare notes, share stories and forge alliances.   Meanwhile, the people of Gaza continue to endure an ongoing siege (now more than two years old) and suffer inhumane delays to rebuild one year after bombs killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and destroyed homes, schools, hospitals and farmland. Even though many international participants in the Gaza Freedom March may be denied access to Gaza, they hope to shine a bright spotlight on the ongoing human rights struggles there.

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