Unreported Gaza

Two further press release widely unreported:
Press Release 6th January

Egyptian Police attack Humanitarian Gaza Aid Convoy

Last night Egyptian police again delayed the Viva Palestina aid convoy
carrying much needed aid from reaching the people of Gaza. Having agreed
to Egyptian demands whilst being stranded in the port of Aqaba some seven
days ago, convoy leaders agreed to re-route their journey after receiving
guarantees from the Egyptian authorities of a safe passage to Gaza.
Humanitarians from all over the world transporting the aid were attacked
by riot police in the port of Al-Arish last night (5th January). And it is
now reported that some of the activists were hospitalised overnight for
their injuries. They have since returned back to re-join the convoy
members in the port and thankfully have no life threatening issues.
British and national embassies are being kept informed of the situation.
Protests broke out when Egyptian authorities at Al – Arish ordered some
lorries to use an Israeli-controlled checkpoint. The activists preferred
the goods to be transported via Egypt’s Rafah crossing as agreed.
George Galloway who is leading the convoy said Israel is likely to prevent
it entering Gaza – This morning he told Sky News. “It is completely
unconscionable that 25% of our convoy should go to Israel and never arrive
in Gaza.”
Following Israel’s horrific attack on Gaza, people all over Britain worked
for months raising funds for aid and aid vehicles for the Palestinian
people. Those taking the aid are humanitarians from all walks of life,
who have given up a month to bring the much needed medical aid in a
gesture of solidarity with their continuing oppression under Israel’s
illegal siege.
Betty Hunter, General Secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said,
“It is shocking that the Egyptian government is behaving in this way.
There can be no justification for preventing this aid and the people who
have worked so hard to provide it from reaching Gaza. The Palestinians
are waiting for this well publicised international convoy to arrive and
these actions of the Egyptian government, and the building of Egypt’s
steel wall signal that Egypt is colluding with the Israeli government’s
illegal siege of Gaza.”
Viva Palestina ‘The Return to Gaza’ is partnered with the Palestine
Solidarity Campaign and departed London on 6th December bound for Gaza.
For further information on the Viva Palestina convoy visit
Press information from Alice Howard on Tel:07944 512 469 or viva email:
Alice Howard
Viva Palestina UK – Administration Manager
Tel: +447944 512 469
Email: alice@vivapalestina.org
Website: http://www.vivapalestina.org/

6th January

Viva Palestina Break the siege of Gaza!

After days of pressure imposed by the Egyptian authorities the Viva
Palestina Convoy have ‘triumphantly’ entered Gaza this evening!
Despite being attacked by Egyptian riot police at the port of Al Arish
last night, the ‘strong willed’ convoy of humanitarians from all over the
world carrying much needed medical aid to the people of Gaza went ahead
and was greeted with cheers from hundreds of well-wishers carrying
flowers, warm smiles and chanting Viva Palestina!
Having agreed to Egyptian demands, the convoy of 500 people re-routed
their journey from Aqaba in Jordan (some seven days ago), after receiving
guarantees of a safe passage to Gaza. The recent actions of the Egyptian
police are shameful.
Earlier today at the Rafah border violence broke out as hundreds of
Palestinians began throwing stones across the border at Egyptian security
forces, who then fired back at the protesters. This was in retaliation to
the way the activists were treated by Egyptian police.
Viva Palestina convoy leader Kevin Ovenden says – We are all emotional to
see that all of Gaza are out to greet us! – Our Viva Palestina convoy is
symbolic! It shows the Palestianian people just how much the people of
the West do care. We come in peace to deliver humanitarian aid and we hope
that our convoy (and convoy’s like ours) will help to build pressure on
the Israeli government to break the siege.
The convoy aimed to cross the Rafah border into Gaza on 27 December 2009,
to mark the first anniversary of the beginning of Israel’s 2008/9 land and
air assault on Gaza, which killed 1,400 Palestinians in three weeks.
The Viva Palestina convoy is partnered with the Palestine Solidarity
Campaign and departed London on December 6 2009 and have travelled nearly
5,000 miles. The convoy has received a phenomenal support (since departing
London), through it’s route, Europe, Turkey, Syria and Jordan.
For further information on the Viva Palestina Gaza Aid Convoy visit
Press information from Alice Howard on Tel: 07944 512 469 or via email:

Meanwhile in Cairo
(forwarded by Mary Pearson):
Fears for the safety of three Irish women as peaceful demonstration is attacked in Cairo.
Irish women Zoe Lawlor, Hilary Minch and Caroline McLaughlin were caught up in voilent riots this morning in Cairo. Ms. Lawlor contacted friends and family this morning to inform them of the chaotic and dangerous situation herself and fellow Irish women were in.
Ms. Lawlor,who is from Limerick, said, ” It is really kicking off here. I have just been pulled off the street oposite the museum in Cairo by the hair by Egyptian police. Others are being kicked and punched.We are surrounded by hundreds of riot police. It is very rough here, but we are all still together.”
Ms. Lawlor, Ms. Minch and Ms. McLaughlin travelled to Cairo from Ireland earlier this week to take part in the non-violent, human rights based Gaza Freedom March.
The Gaza Freedom March was organized to focus attention on the one-year mark since Israel’s 22-day assault, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, injured more than 5,000. Although the invasion technically ended, the effects on the ground have only worsened in the past 12 months. No building materials have been allowed in and more than 80 percent of Gazans are now dependent on handouts for food.
The marchers had planned to enter Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah Crossing on December 27, then to join with an estimated 50,000 Palestinian residents to march to the northern Erez Crossing into Israel to peacefully demand an end to the siege. However, the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced just days before the hundreds of delegates began arriving in Cairo that the march would not be allowed to go forward. When marchers demonstrated against the decision, the government cracked down, often using heavily armed riot police to encircle and intimidate the nonviolent marchers.
These tensions have been ongoing for three days now, but have escalated this morning.
There are another 7 Irish people who driving to Gaza with the Viva Palestina convoy, they are currently boarding a ferry to Egypt to deliver the supplies to Gaza. Caoimhe Butterly, who was in Gaza this time last year working with the Red Crescent ambulance team during the invasion, is returning with an ambulance & supplies for her colleagues.
Kate O’Sullivan, 24 year old Cork woman has driven from Ireland, last year Kate was involved in sending 4 containers over to Gaza – these supplies sent from people all over Ireland are still being held by the Egyptians authorities in the port, one year later!
In an act of solidarity with those taking part in the Gaza Freedom March and the Viva Palestina activists attempting to bring aid into Gaza on 31st December, both of whom have faced blatant obstruction at the hands of the Egyptian government, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign intends to hold a picket the Egyptian Embassy at 3.30pm today, Thursday 31st December. The IPSC will also be handing in a letter of protest asking for the opening of the Rafah Crossing and safe passage for the Marchers and Aid Convoy.
Related Link: http://www.ipsc.ie
This message was received from Mary Hughes in Cairo who is part of the Freedom March, the majority of whom are women & grandmothers.
She’s traveling with Hedy Epstein, who’s 85 years old & a holocaust survivor. They have both been fasting since 27th Dec when they were refused entry into Gaza.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Mary Hughes
Date: Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 9:07 PM
In about an hour the Gaza Freedom Marchers in Cairo will be meeting in Tahrir Square to celebrate the beginning of 2010 here. January 1st will be the fifth day of my hunger strike.
It was an eventful and exhilarating day here for all of us here in Cairo. This morning we began to arrive in small groups at a couple of locations in downtown Cairo, intending to join and up and begin a solidarity march to Gaza. We didn’t expect to get far before being stopped, so we took what things we had that would make it easier to spend the night in the street. As soon as we got out of our taxi near the Museum, Hedy and I and Hedy’s two friends from St Louis were immediately surrounded by security police who tried to lead us away from the area. All around us we saw other small groups receiving the same reception. After sitting on a bench in front of the Nile Hilton for half an hour, with half a dozen police standing close and trying to persuade us to continue walking away, we suddenly saw a surge of people crossing the street a few yards from us, and we quickly rushed to join them. Free Gaza signs appeared, chants of “Free Gaza” were heard. Passengers in cars and buses gave us a wave and a smile. We were immediately encircled by several hundred policemen who placed barriers around us and began to push us more tightly together. We tried to keep space around Hedy, as we were pushed and squeezed. I feared my ribs would be crushed as I was squeezed tighter and closer to people around me. A few people fell or tried to sit in the middle of the circle and the police went after them. Suddenly I was pushed to the ground and fell flat on my face. As people around me were pushed more tightly to the center I feared I would be trampled. Perhaps the police thought I had been sitting, because they grabbed my arms and began to drag me along the ground. I felt my one shoe fall off, then the other I tried to hang onto my things. as some French people came to my rescue, reaching out to help lift me to my feet, then leading me away next to the wall and away from the police.
My shoes and my cane were swallowed up and could not be located amid the mass of people. We stayed together for many hours, held tightly in our circle by the police. It was very warm, but as always spirits were high, some enormous signs were raised by young men who climbed the only tree we had in our enclosure. It was a laurel tree, and many people raised branches above their heads as we called for peace and freedom for Gaza. At the moment we knew the march was taking place inside Gaza we chanted again: Free Gaza, Free Gaza. Someone began to play an accordian and I was pulled, shoeless, into a circle of women, including Hedy, as we danced in a circle while people arround us cheered.
Eventually, after several hours, some members of American Veterans for Peace who had been watching over Hedy persuaded her it would be safer if she left. They felt the police were getting more threatening and were worried they wouldn’t be able to keep her safe if we were rushed and attacked. Hedy reluctantly agreed to go outside the circle to talk to some press who wanted to interview her, so Hedy, Sandra, J’Ann and I were, after some negotiations escorted outside, where Hedy was greeted by reporters.
So here I stay in Cairo, grateful to be merely shoeless, somewhat bruised and only slightly battered, still strong and determined, proud and humbled to be a part of this amazing family that has come together from around the world to stand in solidarity with Gaza Palestine and to remember what happened in Gaza year ago. We may not get to Gaza this time, but we believe we have made a joyful noise in Cairo.
Happy New Year everybody . Free Gaza. Free Palestine.
PS: One of my shoes was later found.
Photo’s of May Hughes & Hedy Epstein in Cairo
Contacts for interviews
Mary Hughes-Thompson, Canada, US +20101 328 853
Hedy Epstein, US, St. Louis +11 970 59 515 382
Caoimhe Butterly, Ireland +90 541 695 86 77 on Viva Palestina convoy on route to Gaza
In Ireland – Niamh Moloughney 091 472279/085 7747257 / Freda Hughes IPSC / Fintan Lane 087 1258325
Irish Free Gaza Coordinator
Background information
Hedy Epstein
Hedy was born in Freiburg, Germany on 8/15/1924, the only child of Ella & Hugo Wachenheimer.

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