GAZA CITY: Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, left the Gaza Strip on Saturday nearly a month after sailing in to protest an Israeli blockade of the territory.
Lauren Booth was able to leave Gaza today through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, Jamal Al-Khodari, the head of the Popular Committee to Break the Siege, told AFP. Other activists close to Booth confirmed she had left.
An Associated Press reporter saw Booth getting her passport stamped Saturday while inside the Egyptian side of the Rafah border terminal. Police prevented reporters from talking with her.
Booth has been trying to leave Gaza since last month but was turned away at Israeli and Egyptian crossings.
The crossing – the only gateway to Gaza not controlled by Israel – was opened Saturday to allow 1,500 Gazans, mostly Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca, to leave the impoverished territory of 1.5 million people.
Booth had arrived in Gaza on Aug. 23 with 43 other activists in two small fishing boats in a demonstration intended to highlight Israel s blockade of the territory, which has been ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement since June 2007.
Since Hamas seized power, Israel has sealed Gaza off from all but vital humanitarian goods and severely restricted movement in and out.
But although Israel controls Gaza s waters and airspace, it allowed the two boats to enter without incident in order to avoid a public standoff at sea.
Authorities had however refused to allow Booth to enter Israel by land, saying she had reached the Gaza Strip illegally.
Most of the campaigners who had sailed to Gaza aboard the two boats sailed back to Cyprus five days later, although nine, including Booth, remained in the Palestinian territory.
Jeff Halper, the only Israeli in the group, was held overnight by police upon his return to Israel through its Erez crossing with the Gaza Strip on Aug. 26.
Blair is currently serving as the envoy for the Middle East peace Quartet – which includes the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia – and has focused on improving daily life in the occupied territories. -Agencies