Protesters demand access to Gaza

Over 1 000 protesters and journalists from 43 countries converged on the Egyptian Museum in Cairo on Thursday morning, calling for Egypt to open the Rafah border with Gaza.

After a violent start to the protest, about 600 protesters sat down outside the museum, where they intend to stay until midnight.

The museum has been closed as well as a central metro station.

The police were earlier seen dragging women by their hair and beating and kicking seated protesters.

The protesters had gathered in Cairo to mark the first anniversary of Israel’s devastating war on Gaza that killed 1 400 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis also died.

Egypt then banned the activists from entering the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing, the only entry that bypasses Israel.
The move has sparked a number of demonstrations. About three hundred French nationals have set up camp outside the French embassy and are demanding their government put pressure on Egypt to open the border. Also on Wednesday, a group of French and American delegates hung a larger-than-life Palestinian flag over one of the pyramids, the second demonstration of its kind in four days. There have also been protests at the Cairo Journalists’ Syndicate, the United States Embassy, and the United Nations headquarters at Cairo’s World Trade Centre.

Relations between the protesters and the government became strained on Tuesday evening, when Suzanne Mubarak, wife of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and chairperson of the Red Crescent organisation, offered to allow 100 protesters into Gaza. The offer was accepted by one of the march organisers, Code Pink, a US anti-war group that is mainly composed of women. This sowed division among the protesters, with many countries, including South Africa, making a conscious decision not to go, as they felt it ‘diluted the message” and was a ‘sell-out strategy”.

Code Pink have since decided not to accept Egypt’s offer.

Ziyaad Lunat, a member of the march coordinating committee, said they rejected Egypt’s offer as a “token gesture”.

“We refuse to whitewash the siege of Gaza. Our group will continue working to get all 1 362 marchers into Gaza as one step towards the ultimate goal for the complete end of the siege and the liberation of Palestine” said Lunat.

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