Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Hope for Gaza Freedom marchers?

Yesterday the delayed Spanish and French contingent of the Gaza Freedom March was joined by other internationals and protested in the centre of El Arish 40 k from the Rafah crossing.

Sadat Square became the centre of controversy as political demonstration, banned in Egypt, arrived in the centre of this Mediterranean town. Protesters called for the lifting of the Siege of Gaza by chanting, raising banners and singing the famous Lennon Ono composition 'Give Peace a Chance' along with other protest songs. Many hundreds of local Egyptians, Palestinians and other Arab peoples flocked to the Square to watch the spectacle. Egyptian security services responded by blocking any movement as the demonstration moved up July 23rd Street and scuffles and angry confrontations ensued. Locals who moved to express their support were forcefully restrained except one who, overcome by the feelings expressed, joined the protesters at serious personal risk. Political protest carries 5 years imprisonent.
The army, uniformed and plain clothes police blocked their passage. The demonstration continued until dusk and as the call for prayers echoed around this ancient square the protesters dispersed under heavy security services escort.

  • Meanwhile in Cairo negotiations have been ongoing regarding the several hundred GFM participants. Suzanne Mubarak, the President's wife and chair of the Red Crescent, was instrumental in promoting an agreement to provide 2 buses and the passage of 100 people qualified by their humanitarian purpose to proceed to Gaza today.
In Cairo protests erupted amongst the GFM movement as hundreds of participants tried to establish their legitimacy to join the buses to proceed north to Gaza. Priority had to be given to Palestinians with relatives in Gaza many of whom had not met for years or ever seen their families due to the entry restrictions imposed and those proceeding for humanitarian purposes.

Doctors, priests, teachers, Hasidic Jews against Zionism (currently in Arish) lawyers, therapists, NGO workers and those with an humanitarian purpose were to be given priority.

  • I am now at the heavily guarded 5 Star Swiss Inn, El Arish where we wait in anticipation to see whether the bus will arrive and who can get on, having been stopped twice and emptied of those that are seen to potentially threaten the peaceful integrity of the movement.

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