Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Relief Supplies Finally Break Gaza Blockade

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Relief Supplies Finally Break Gaza Blockade

Article excerpt

THE GATES OF Gaza opened-and seven tons of essential supplies entered the Gaza Strip.

It was the climax of a two-week fight, during which time the Israeli peace organizations threatened to go to the Supreme Court, while supporters from all over the world followed the struggle closely.

The action started two months ago, when the well-known Gaza human rights activist, Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj, a psychiatrist, met in Tel-Aviv with a small group of peace activists from several organizations. In the course of the meeting it was decided that the Israeli peace movement would organize a relief convoy-both in order to alleviate the suffering and as an act of solidarity and political protest against the inhuman blockade imposed by the Olmert government on the million and a half residents of the Gaza Strip. In the end, more than 30 peace organizations joined the effort.

The Gush Shalom outreach coordinator Beate Zilversmidt asked supporters in Israel and abroad for donations. The reaction was moving: Individuals and organizations from many countries sent contributions-some for a few dollars, some for hundreds or thousands. With the money, Teddy Katz of Gush Shalom and Yaacov Manor, coordinator of the Coalition Against the Blockade, bought five tons of supplies. Israeli families added two more tons of individual family packets.

Scheduled to leave Jan. 26, but delayed until Feb. 3, when a permit finally was issued, the supplies were brought to the Gaza Strip in a huge convoy of 150 cars, but were stopped there. Only on Feb. 18, after a tenacious struggle with the army authorities, was permission granted to let the supplies in.

A small delegation of peace activists, members of several organizations, went early that morning in the biting cold to the Sofa crossing, at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, after hanging giant signs around the supplies demanding "Gaza: Lift the Blockade!" The activists brought the supplies to the gate of the crossing. On the other side of the terminal the Palestinian partners were already waiting. The supplies were delivered to them.

Dr. Sarraj spoke on the phone with Gush Shalom spokesman Adam Keller and thanked the Israeli activists warmly. He told them that the stores of essential supplies that were brought in during the days when the Rafah border was open were dwindling rapidly, and the feeling of strangulation is returning. "We in Gaza appreciate the expression of solidarity that we received from the convoy today," he said. "We hope that this is the beginning of a joint struggle of the two peoples for peace and freedom for both."

The supplies contained mainly essential foodstuffs and water filters, which are essential in the Strip because the water there is practically undrinkable. The Palestinian Coalition Against the Blockade intends to give priority to hospitals, where the need for clean water is paramount. For many months the blockade prevented filters from entering Gaza, producing a serious threat to public health-as is the case with many other products. …

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