Foreigners protest Egypt at French Embassy over Gaza halt

About 80 foreign supporters of Palestinians protested outside the French Embassy in Cairo after Egypt refused to let them to march to Gaza, witnesses said.

Foreigners protest Egypt at French Embassy over Gaza halt

About 80 foreign supporters of Palestinians protested outside the French Embassy in Cairo on Monday after Egypt refused to let them to march to Gaza, witnesses said.

Some 1,400 activists from 43 countries had gathered in Cairo on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of the Israeli offensive on Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to hold talks in Cairo on Tuesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The activists, several hundred of whom were from France, had asked Egypt for permission to cross into Gaza but the Interior Ministry has refused to allow peaceful convoy, concidering it as an alleged "threat to national security".

On Sunday, about 80 activists staged a protest outside the French Embassy, surrounded by a heavy police presence. Such demonstrations are rare in Egypt but no violence broke out and no arrests were made, witnesses said.

About 30 activists managed to make their way on Sunday by public transport to Arish in northern Sinai, where they were now under house arrest, said Yvonne Ridley, a member of the Gaza Freedom March.

Eight more reached Rafah, on the border, but were later returned to Arish, Egyptian security officials said.

The activists said in a statement they were protesting against the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip and the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli military operation against Gaza in which Amnesty International said 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

"The international coalition had intended to take part in a non-violent demonstration with 50,000 Palestinians to commemorate Israel's Cast Lead operation and protest the ongoing blockade," the statement said.

The convoy has been docked in the Jordanian port of Aqaba since Thursday awaiting approval from Egypt to enter via Nuweiba on the Red Sea. Egypt allowed similar convoys to enter Gaza in March and July.

Egypt has hosted talks with different Palestinian political groups to end internal disputes, mainly between the Palestinian Authority which controls the West Bank and the Islamist group Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip.

Egypt and Germany have also been mediating a possible exchange of prisoners by Hamas and Israel.

Reuters
Last Mod: 29 Aralık 2009, 08:35
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