Egyptian Authorities Harass Palestine Solidarity Activists

Alex Kane Dec 27, 2009

EL-ARISH, EGYPT–Continuing a pattern of intimidation and harassment, Egyptian authorities are breaking up many Palestine solidarity actions across Egypt.

The Egyptian government has still not granted permission for participants in the Gaza Freedom March to cross the border into Gaza, and have broken up demonstrations across Egypt commemorating the over 1,400 Palestinians killed during Israel’s assault on Gaza.  The march is still taking place on December 31 in the Gaza Strip, though it remains unclear whether the over 1,300 delegates in Egypt will be able to participate.  Tens of thousands of Palestinians are marching to demand that the devasting Israeli and Egyptian siege be broken.

At a hotel in el-Arish, Egyptian security placed around 30 people, mostly citizens of Spain, under effective house arrest after they attempted to leave for the Rafah border crossing, which is about 30 minutes outside el-Arish.  Two delegates staying in the hotel attempted to take a taxi to the border, but were stopped and ordered back. Eight separate international delegates were also taken off a bus right outside  el-Arish, and detained at a bus stop for over two hours.  The eight delegates, including ones from the United States, France, and Turkey, were eventually allowed to enter the town, but the hotel where they are staying is swarmed with Egyptian security.

In other news from Cairo, “Egyptian security police broke up a commemoration of the Israeli invasion of Gaza organized by the Gaza Freedom March at Kasr al Nil Bridge, one of the main bridges connecting Zamalek Island, in the middle of the Nile, to Cairo. As a nonviolent way of commemorating the more than 1300 Palestinians killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza that began a year ago on Dec. 27, 2008, Gaza Freedom Marchers tied hundreds of strings with notes, poems, art and the names of those killed to the bridge,” according to a press release from the Gaza Freedom March steering committee.

“We’re saddened that the Egyptian authorities have blocked our participants’ freedom of movement and interfered with a peaceful commemoration of the dead,” said Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, one of the march’s organizers.

In addition to the breaking up of the demonstration in Cairo, about 20 Palestine solidarity activists lit candles and placed them in a square outside a mosque in el-Arish to remember Gazans killed during Operation Cast Lead.  But Egyptian police, after at least 60 Egyptian citizens crowded around the commemoration wondering what the candles were about, broke it up.

Alex Kane is a junior at Marymount Manhattan College, and a reporter and writer with the Indypendent.  He is part of the student delegation to the Gaza Freedom March, where he will be joining over 1,300 delegates in a historic march in Gaza on December 31.Follow his reporting on Gaza here on the IndyBlog, and at his Twitter account.

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