Sunday, December 27 — The Egyptian security forces detained a group of 30 internationals in their hotel in el-Arish and another group of 8 at the bus station. They also broke up a memorial action commemorating the Cast Lead massacre at the Kasr al Nil Bridge.
At noon on 27 December, Egyptian security forces detained a group of 30 activists in their hotel in el-Arish as they prepared to leave for Gaza, placing them under house arrest. The delegates, all part of the Gaza Freedom March of 1,300 people, were Spanish, French, British, American, and Japanese. The Egyptian security forces eventually yielded, letting most of the marchers leave the hotel, but did not permit them to leave the town. When two younger delegates, a French woman and a Japanese woman, attempted to leave el-Arish, the Egyptian authorities stopped their taxi and unloaded their luggage.
Another group of eight people, including citizens from America, Britain, Spain, Japan, and Greece, were detained at the bus station of el-Arish in the afternoon of December 27. As of 3:30 PM, they were still being held.
Simultaneously, Egyptian security police broke up a commemoration of the Israeli invasion of Gaza organized by the Gaza Freedom March at the Kasr al Nil Bridge, one of the main bridges connecting Zamalek Island, in the middle of the Nile, to Cairo. As a nonviolent way of commemorating the more than 1,300 Palestinians killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza that began a year ago on December 27, 2008, Gaza Freedom Marchers tied hundreds of strings with notes, poems, art, and the names of those killed to the bridge.
"We’re saddened that the Egyptian authorities have blocked our participants’ freedom of movement and interfered with a peaceful commemoration of the dead," said Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, one of the March’s organizers.
Benjamin added that the Gaza Freedom March participants are continuing to urge the Egyptian government to allow them to proceed to Gaza. They visited the Arab League, asking for support, various foreign embassies, and the Presidential Palace to deliver an appeal to President Mubarak. They are calling on their supporters around the world to contact Egyptian embassies and urge them to free the marchers and allow them to proceed to Gaza.
Ali Abunimah is a co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. This article was first published in his blog for the Gaza Freedom March.