Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Egypt blocks Gaza Freedom March

Egyptian authorities rejected a request by international activists Monday to stage a scheduled march to the Gaza Strip through the Egyptian border town of Rafah to mark the one-year anniversary of Israel's three-week-long assault on the coastal enclave during which more than 1400 Palestinians were killed.
"Some international organizations have requested permission for a solidarity march--the 'Gaza Freedom March'-- into the Gaza Strip," the Egyptian Foreign Ministry declared in a statement. "Egypt finds it difficult to cooperate with this march in light of the sensitive situation in the Gaza Strip."

According to Codepink, an American rights group, march organizers had set November 30 as a cut-off date for registration in order to give Egyptian officials sufficient time to clear would-be participants for entry into the strip.

Egypt often acts sensitively--and, at times, aggressively--to international solidarity campaigns with the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by Palestinian resistance movement Hamas since 2007. In October, the 'Miles of Smiles' solidarity group was denied entry into the territory for five weeks on the grounds that it had not obtained official authorization. The group came with 220 wheel chairs for Palestinians who had become disabled as a result of the Israeli attack.
 In February the German-Egyptian peace activist and blogger Philip Rizk waqs detained for four days for attempting to cross into the Gaza Strip 'illegally'. In the same month, Magdy Hussein, head of Egypt's frozen Islamist Labor Party, was sentenced to two years in jail by an Egyptian military court for illegally crossing into the territory during the assault. On the domestic front, meanwhile, the Egyptian government has been cracking down on Gaza solidarity protests, fearing that these might bolster the popularity of its foremost political rival, the Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement, which has historical and ideological ties with Hamas.

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