International Community Activists arrive at the Rafah border

June 9, 2009

News received from the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border : 11. 52 U.K. time – copy follows:

At 8 a.m. Egypt time, seven of the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border walked to the Rafah, Egypt/Gaza border. The group consists of David Mattacchioni, Italy; Christian Chantegrel, Micheline Garreau, Jacque Denko, France; Paki Wieland, Ellen Graves, and Don Bryant, USA. They came by a circuitous route, avoiding all checkpoints between El-Arish and Rafah.

These international activists attempted to enter Gaza the morning of June 9, but were denied. They were told the border would open at 1 p.m.

The goal of the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border (IMORB) is not to enter Gaza, but to protest the extended siege and the 22-day Israeli military attacks of Gaza. “A humanitarian crisis exists in Gaza due to the siege and the Israeli invasion in December and January.” explained Don Bryant of Cleveland, Ohio. “We were in Gaza three months ago and saw the extreme destruction in every village, refugee camp, and business district. Over 1400 were killed, 85% were civilians.”

“There’s a lot of destruction, almost like the day of judgement.” said Cesar, born in Gaza, now of Denton, Texas. His family had planned to return to Gaza until their last visit, when they decided it was just too bad to stay.

The IMORB sat with Cesar, his wife, and four children, at the border checkpoint, as they waited to enter Gaza, to visit with family. Four men who wanted to go to Gaza today also waited with the IMORB. Awni from UAE wanted to see his sick mother, Mohammad had surgery in Cairo and wishes to go home to Gaza, and two students, Salama and Mohammad graduated and are hoping to go home to Gaza. Awni told the activists, “unfortunately, we found the border closed, and we have to wait, six days now. What do they think, we are not human? What did we do to these people? There are treating us very bad, they treat us like animals, but we are all the same as you from America. Why? Why?”

In late morning, a European Parliament delegation came to visit Gaza. The IMORB displayed a banner, “Open the Gaza Border,” and hoped to have a meeting with the dignitaries.

The Rafah gate was suddenly opened wide to make them pass as quick as possible in order to make sure there was no contact with the activists or the other people waiting. The demonstration was captured on camera by convoy passengers. Families trying to enter Gaza joined the demonstration. If Egyptian security allows the international activists to enter Gaza, they will accept the visa on one condition. “If the gates are open for everyone to come and go as they wish., explained Ellen Graves. “We have people here with us who have come to visit their loved ones; forbidding these visits is against international law, and contrary to human dignity. Families come long distances, and then they have to sit here for days before entering, It is inhuman.

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