Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Egypt Cracks Down on Foreign Protesters Heading to Gaza Strip

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Egypt Cracks Down on Foreign Protesters Heading to Gaza Strip

Article excerpt

American and European activists attempting to go to the Gaza Strip from Egypt to protest Israel's actions during last year's Gaza war have been blocked from doing so - and say they have been harshly treated by Egyptian authorities.

Getting in to the Gaza Strip is no easy feat, but driving across

Egypt should not be this hard.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 international activists from 42 countries

around the world descended on Cairo to kick off the Gaza Freedom

March, a humanitarian convoy and media spectacle organized by US

activist group Code Pink. The plan was to take buses from Cairo to

the Egypt-Gaza border post at Rafah, where they would cross in to

Gaza to mark the one-year anniversary of the devastating 22-day

Israeli campaign against Hamas, which killed more than 1,400

Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers. Organizers say they knew

getting into Gaza would be the hard part, so they made sure to check

and double check their arrangements with Egyptian authorities. That

didn't stop Egypt from closing the border post and forbidding the

activists from driving across the Sinai Peninsula, keeping them from

even getting near it. Much like the humanitarian supplies they were

intent on delivering, Gaza Freedom Marchers say they too have been

caught in the siege on Gaza. Unable to protest the blockade from

within the territory, they have protested it from here. The result

has been a tense confrontation between American and European

left-wing activism and a repressive police state engaged in a

rigorous four-year-long crackdown on critics of the regime of Hosni

Mubarak. Medea Benjamin, an American citizen, cofounder of the

antiwar group Code Pink, and one of the march organizers, says she

and 50 other US nationals were "beaten up" by Egyptian police

when they went to the US Embassy in Cairo to attend a previously

scheduled meeting with embassy staff on Tuesday morning. They went

to deliver a letter of support from Sen. John Kerry (D) of

Massachusetts, says Ms. Benjamin, but instead were "dragged,

pulled, and manhandled" on the pavement by Egyptian police. …

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