solidarity with Gaza: marches to break the siege

Palestinians and supporters gathered Sunday August 10th, the international day of solidarity with Gaza to lift the Israel blockade, in venues throughout Egypt, Palestine and Scotland, to protest the 14 months-long total siege of Gaza and continued closure of Gaza’s crossings. The messages were clear, citing the toll the siege has taken on Palestinians in Gaza–227 medical cases have died as a result of denied exit from Gaza for treatment –and calling on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek to immediately open and leave open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

Seven weeks after the June 19th truce between Hamas and Israel took effect, Gaza’s crossings remain sealed, the Rafah border opening only sporadically for negligible numbers of medical cases leaving or returning to Gaza. The Egypt-brokered truce stipulated, in addition to a cessation of Israeli military invasions and attacks on Gaza, a halt to the firing of home-made rockets from Gaza to nearby Israeli areas and towns. The terms of the ceasefire also included negotiations over the regularized opening of Rafah crossing. Sunday August 10, approximately 15 people, including children and women, Palestinians and Egyptians and two internationals, gathered at the Rafah crossing, after being twice turned back at Egyptian military checkpoints along the road. The non-violent demonstrators took circuitous roads and walked the final few km to reach the border, banners in hand, a peaceful procession. They were prevented from walking up to the crossing gates and, instead, were kept about 100 m from the crossing.

Although harassed by Egyptian police and stopped repeatedly for questioning while walking the final kms, Egyptian border officials finally allowed the demonstration to continue from a distance. Yet they prevented protesters from getting closer than 100 m to the crossing.

On the other side, it is said that hundreds of Palestinians gathered at the Gazan Rafah crossing, likewise calling for an end to the siege and an opening of the Rafah crossing. In Cairo and Edinburgh, demonstrations were held, the latter gathering upwards of 200 calling for the end of the siege. And in Cyprus, 44 peace activists –normal people ranging from early twenties to an 84 year old Holocaust survivor –ready themselves to sail to Gaza, to prove that Gaza’s waters are Gaza’s waters, and thereby test Israel’s control over said seas. As the crew readies to sail, they report on death threats received against their moral, human rights stance.

Since June 19th, Israeli army aggressions have been minimized, in comparison with pre-truce, though present, in Gaza, with the Israeli army repeatedly firing on Gaza’s fisherman –since the first week of the ceasefire until as recently as August 10) and Israeli un-manned drones still flying over the Strip. Random Palestinian factions have in turn fired a handful of rockets though not, according to Hamas, with the consent of the Haniyeh government.

Rami Almeghari reports on the Gaza demonstration: “Ahmad Bahar, deputy-speaker of parliament pointed out the devastating impact of the Israeli blockade, saying that more than 3000 Gaza patients are awaiting referral to hospitals outside of Gaza and that Israel has not committed to lifting the blockade by allowing only 60 shipments of commodities out of 450 on daily basis, since a ceasefire has been concluded in June 19, 2008.”

As Almeghari quoted Dr. Mona Al-Farra, “This is the time for the international moral conscious to be awakened and spread a message for peace and justice in Palestine.”

Indeed it is.

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