Trapped in Gaza

Reports that Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth is “trapped” in Gaza after going there on the campaigning “peace boat” has got people talking again about the Israel blockade and Egypt’s closed border.

I reckon that’s a good thing. We’ve previously blogged on the subject of 400 Palestinian students who were in Booth’s position and cut off from their university places overseas.

At the weekend the drawbridge came down – temporarily – as the Gaza/Egypt border point, the Rafah crossing, was opened. But just on Saturday and Sunday. The pattern at Rafah all year has been near-total closure (it had been opened on only four occasions during 2008 before the weekend) interspersed with a brief couple of days when the crossing is opened.

What happens when you prevent virtually all of 1.5 million people from leaving their small, very crowded – and under-resourced and badly-supplied  – territory then open the border for a brief period? A stampede.

By Saturday night, we hear, the sheer volume of people trying to cross at Rafah meant that masses of people were simply returned indiscriminately to Gaza. Ditto Sunday. The situation, by all accounts, was totally chaotic, with students and others forced to wait for hours in unpleasant conditions with no facilities.

We’re still trying to find out whether students whose academic freedom we’ve been appealing for are going to make it to places like Manchester Metropolitan University and Bradford University where their courses start soon.

And, regarding an even more worrying Gaza situation, we’re trying to keep up pressure on the Israeli authorities to allow Palestinians with life-threatening illnesses to leave to receive medical treatment they simply can’t get in Gaza.

Our latest news is that some got out at the weekend – including Karima Abu Dalal who has Hodgkin's Lymphoma – but extremely ill people are still trapped. We’re talking about people with cancer and other serious diseases who may die if they’re not allowed to go to Egypt and other places for specialist hospital treatment. How is denying them permission to leave helping Israel’s security effort?

Meanwhile, in the other occupied territory, a recent Amnesty press office volunteer Macin Jeziorski is now blogging from Ramallah in the West Bank about his work for a local NGO. Check it out – the self-styled Sultan Of Kabul is quite a character!

 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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