Protests held against Gaza siege

By Al-Jazeera – 31 Dec 2009
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/12/200912319314796808.html

Gaza Freedom March [Ali Abunimah]

Gaza Freedom March (photo: Ali Abunimah)

Activists, both from Gaza and abroad, have held demonstrations on either side of an Israeli border crossing to the Palestinian territory, protesting against its continued siege by Israel.

Hundreds of protesters gathered around the Erez crossing on Thursday, to denounce the blockade that has caused immense suffering to those living in Gaza.

Nisreen el-Shamayleh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent who was on the Israeli side of the crossing, estimated that about 600 protesters were present, many from mainly Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.

“They represent Israeli-Palestinians as well as other Arab civil society organisations inside Israel and also with the support of some Israeli groups,” she said.

“Their major demand is for Israel to stop the siege on Gaza and to stop the suffocation of Gazans living under this blockade. They’re also calling on the international community to intervene.”

The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli blockade since 2007 when Hamas seized power in the territory.

The Erez crossing is the main entry and exit point to and from Gaza used by medical patients, journalists, diplomats and aid groups.

International support

On the Gaza side of the border, the demonstration was slower to get started, but protesters there were joined by 86 activists from the Gaza Freedom March, an international group that has been trying to get into Gaza with food and supplies.

Most of the Gaza Freedom March’s 1,300-strong group were refused entry into Gaza by Egypt, which controls the Rafah crossing point, because of what Egyptian authorities said was the “sensitive situation” in the territory.

Many of those remaining in Egypt held separate demonstrations in Cairo.Ali Abunimah, the co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website, who was at the Cairo protest, told Al Jazeera the group had been surrounded by the police.

“I’ve spoken to some people who were pushed or kicked by police and a few people have [had] their cameras taken away,” he said.

“I’d say there are about 200 people here. We had anticipated quite a few more, but earlier today police barricaded some of the hotels where we are staying … I can’t tell you how many people have been prevented from joining us.”

A separate aid convoy has also been trying to reach Gaza through Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba.

Lorries from the Viva Palestina convoy began crossing from Jordan into Syria on Thursday.

The events around Gaza coincide with the one-year anniversary of Israel’s devastating 22-day war on Gaza which left about 1,300 Palestinians dead. Thirteen Israelis also died in the conflict.

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