International peace activists stranded in Gaza

Ex-UK prime minister Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth is among ten peace activists who arrived in Gaza by sea last month and remain stuck there, denied entry by both Israel and Egypt. Israeli authorities allowed the boat to dock Aug. 23 despite the naval blockade. Booth and her nine comrades remained in the Strip as the rest of the 44 “Free Gaza” activists returned to Cyprus Aug. 29.

“I tried through the proper channels, through the United Kingdom’s embassy, but I was told I was not allowed to come through,” she said after being denied entry to Israel. An Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed that Booth was turned back, saying there is a policy of refusing entry to anyone from Gaza who did not get there via Israel.

Similarly turned back by Egypt at the Rafah crossing, Booth said diplomatic efforts were still being made to permit her to leave the Strip. “Thanks to Israel for letting us feel a real taste of Gazan life,” she added. (Reuters, Sept. 2)

When the two Greek-flagged “peace pirate” boats—dubbed the Free Gaza and the Liberty—landed in Gaza, they were greeted by thousands of cheering Palestinians. Deposed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas congratulated the Free Gaza mission and said it “spells the end of Israel’s siege.” The effort was also praised by Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. (Irish Times, Aug. 25)

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