CAIRO: American delegations will attempt to enter Gaza from Egypt and Israel throughout the week to coincide with US President Barack Obama’s visit to Cairo next Wednesday.
The members of the five delegations number 150 in all (three delegations have already managed to get into Gaza), and are travelling under the umbrella of the Code Pink peace group which has organized visits to the Gaza strip in the past.
Code Pink cofounder Medea Benjamin said in a press release, “We think if President Obama is serious about being even-handed and reversing our country’s past favoritism towards Israel then he should visit Gaza himself.
“We’re sure that if he saw and heard about the suffering personally, he would put the required pressure on the governments of both Israel and Egypt to open the borders now, she added.
Among the members of the delegation are Israeli-Palestinian relations political scientist Norman Finkelstein and doctor Patch Adams whose story was portrayed in a 1998 Hollywood film starring Robin Williams.
Finkelstein is part of a 70-strong delegation aiming to enter Gaza today from Rafah while Adams will be part of a delegation that intends to enter the strip on June 7. The delegation Adams is a part of will attempt to enter Gaza via Israel not the Rafah crossing in Egypt.
Delegation coordinator and retired army colonel Ann Wright told Daily News Egypt from Al-Arish, where the delegation spent the night before going to the crossing, that though the trips were planned before the announcement of the US president’s visit to Cairo, Obama’s presence gave it a new dimension. “These trips were planned before Obama announced he was coming. The purpose is for people of the international community to see what’s going on in Gaza and go back and tell their communities, she said. “Now that Obama is coming, we want him to go to Gaza.
A delegation numbering 39 American students and 9 Canadians managed to enter Gaza last Tuesday after it had been stopped at the Rafah border crossing for 24 hours. Other European delegations which had been at the border for weeks were also permitted entry on the same day.
Members of one European medical delegation had gone on a week-long hunger strike to protest Egyptian authorities’ refusal to let them pass.