Only 86 international activist allowed into Gaza to protest Israeli closures
86 activists were allowed to enter Gaza from the Egyptian side (the only border crossing not controlled by Israel) to protest against Israeli closures imposed on the territory. Another 1,200 activists who sought entry had to remain in Cairo.
AFP - Hundreds of people including international activists protested on both sides of a Gaza Strip border crossing on Thursday against Israeli closures imposed on the Hamas-ruled territory.
"It's a non-violent, peaceful gathering and the aim is to show the international community the suffering of the people of Gaza," Amjad al-Shawa, a Gaza-based organiser, told AFP.
Eighty-six international activists were allowed to enter the enclave on Wednesday from Egypt via the Rafah crossing, the only terminal not controlled by Israel, which has been mostly closed since Hamas seized power in June 2007.
Another 1,200 activists from around 40 countries remained in Cairo after the Egyptian authorities declined to allow the entire group to enter Gaza because of what they called the "sensitive situation" in the Palestinian territory.
The activists were joined by a few hundred Palestinians as they marched from northern Gaza to the Erez crossing with Israel, the main entry and exit point used by medical patients, journalists, diplomats and aid groups.
Among the protesters were a small group of bearded anti-Zionist religious Jews clad in traditional ultra-Orthodox clothing and holding signs that read: "Judaism yes, Zionism no... State of Israel must go."
On the Israeli side, a group of dozens of foreign, Israeli and Arab activists waved Palestinian flags outside the entry to the terminal, holding signs reading "Stop the siege now" and "Freedom for Gaza."
Many of the activists on the Israeli side had travelled on buses from a neighbourhood in mostly Arab, occupied east Jerusalem that has been the site of recent conflict between Palestinians and hardline Jewish settlers.
Shawa said the location was chosen to highlight the effects of the siege and ties between the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. It was also aimed at commemorating the first anniversary of Israel's massive offensive on Gaza.
Israel and Egypt have sealed the coastal enclave off from all but vital humanitarian aid since Hamas -- an armed Islamist group pledged to Israel's destruction -- seized power there in 2007.
On December 27, 2008 Israel launched a massive military offensive on Gaza in a bid to halt Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks. Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the 22-day conflict.