CAIRO: Hundreds of Egyptian activists ended a sit-in along the Rafah border crossing after they were denied entry into the Gaza Strip, activist Omar Abdullah told Daily News Egypt Sunday.
About 400 members of opposition groups and professional syndicates and MPs held a strike from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon, protesting the Egyptian authorities’ decision to ban them from entering Gaza, Abdullah added.
The activists traveled Friday morning from Cairo to Rafah in a five-bus convoy, carrying food supplies to the strip, an initiative launched by the Egyptian Committee for Lifting the Blockage on Gaza.
“We were told that the Palestinian officials were busy preparing for the visit of Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa to Gaza [on Sunday] and could not receive this number of activists,” Abdullah, a Muslim Brotherhood (MB) movement member, noted.
Accompanied by officers from Egyptian national security, Abdullah and Abdel-Geleel Moustafa, a member of the March 9 Movement, entered Gaza Friday to meet Ghazi Hamad, the official in charge of the Palestinian side of the border.
“Hamad told us that the time was late to receive them. But the Palestinian officials seemed to have been pressured by Egyptian authorities to reject our entrance,” Abdullah argued.
“What proved my point is that on Saturday… after talks with [Hamas officials], they said they were ready to let in all the activists on the border immediately,” he added.
Egyptian authorities on the border reportedly refused to allow them to enter Gaza, though.
Abdullah claimed that security forces stopped the convoy in the North Sinai Al-Arish town, seizing the supplies the convoy was carrying, before allowing them to continue their trip to Rafah.
According to Abdullah, the authorities said they would deliver the aid via Al-Ouga Crossing.
“This means the supplies would be delivered to Gaza after passing through the Israeli authorities, which violates a recent administrative court order allowing activists to deliver humanitarian aid through the Rafah border crossing,” Abdullah noted.
“Such an act reflects bad intentions.”
Meanwhile, authorities also denied entry to two trucks carrying humanitarian aid from Daqahliya governorate, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
"Authorities forced the truck drivers to head back to Al-Arish saying that the Rafah crossing was only for the passage of people not goods," one of the organizers, MP Mohsen Radi, also a Brotherhood member, said.
The Rafah border crossing is the only non-Israeli entry to the impoverished Palestinian enclave.
A delegation of heads of 15 Arab artists’ syndicates visited Gaza Thursday morning in solidarity with the besieged Gazans.
Led by Egyptian Actors’ Syndicate head Ashraf Zaki, the delegation met Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal and a number of other officials in the strip.
The delegation honored 100 Palestinian artists and conducted a number of artistic activities in the city.
Earlier on Tuesday, nine opposition and independent MPs, seven of them from the Brotherhood, had managed to cross into Gaza, but they were not allowed to deliver a cargo of construction materials.
On June 1, President Hosni Mubarak ordered the opening of the Rafah border crossing one day after an Israeli raid on the Freedom Flotilla. The six-ship flotilla carried 10,000 tons of aid to Gaza.
At least nine activists, mostly Turkish, were killed in the attack, which heightened tension between Israel and Turkey.
Before that, Egypt had allowed the opening of the border occasionally, which brought the country under fierce regional and international criticism for keeping the border closed.
Egypt and Israel have maintained the blockade since Hamas took control of Gaza by routing Fatah forces in 2007 street battles.
In December 2008, Israel launched a 22-day offensive against Gaza, killing at least 1,400 people, most of them civilians including women and children.