In a series of protests across the Arab world, activists have demanded an end to the siege of the Gaza Strip and expressed outrage at the Egyptian government for actions that reflect the political will of Israel and the United States.
The largest of these protests was the Gaza Freedom March, in which 1,362 activists from 43 countries gathered in Egypt to attempt to cross the border into Gaza. The march, which began Dec. 30, occurred one year after an Israeli bombing campaign left approximately 1,400 dead in the Gaza Strip.
The march was meant to raise awareness of Israel and Egypt’s blockade of Gaza, which is considered illegal under international human rights and humanitarian law. Despite extensive planning and initial approval from Egyptian authorities, the Freedom March was halted when Egypt restricted the number of entries to just 100 participants and canceled the buses that would take the activists to the Rafah border crossing, citing “security reasons.”
Israel has maintained its blockade since June 2006, preventing desperately needed food and medical supplies from reaching Gaza’s 1.5 million citizens. Exports also have been almost completely restricted, devastating the Gazan economy. The siege could worsen in the coming months as Egypt continues construction of an underground security barrier meant to block the tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt. Israel maintains that the tunnels are used to smuggle munitions into Gaza. The tunnels, however, also have become a main thoroughfare for food and medical supplies not allowed through the sealed borders.
In the weeks following the Gaza Freedom March, crowds gathered in other Arab nations protesting the building of the underground barrier and accusing Egypt of acting as an agent of the Israeli and U.S. governments.
—YES! Magazine staff
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