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The Viva Palestina convoy had planned to arrive in Gaza on the 28th of December for the first anniversary of Israel’s deadly attacks. It was finally allowed in last Wednesday (the 6th). The convoy’s passage had been blocked by the Egyptian state, who, acting on the orders of the US & Israel, have tightened the blockade even further. Stuck just outside Gaza in the port of Al Arish with 230 trucks and ambulances, the Viva Palestina crew decided to stay put until they were allowed access to Gaza.

Things turned nasty during a Palestinian demo at the Gaza-Egypt Rafah Crossing. Stones were thrown at Egyptian border police, who responded with shots. Palestinians returned fire, killing one Egyptian soldier. Dozens of Palestinians seriously injured. Meanwhile the convoy’s sit-in protest at being refused entry was broken up by heavy handed Egyptian police, leaving 55 protesters injured., ten needing hospital treatment.

But the Viva Palestina Convoy wasn’t the only game in town. The Gaza Freedom March, 1300 activists who also intended to enter Gaza on the 28th, was denied access leading to demonstrations in Cairo by internationals and Egyptians. Demonstrating under a dictatorship, with a brutal security apparatus is an incredibly courageous act, but protesters managed a series of rolling demos, candlelight vigils, and even a flash mob demo near the Israeli embassy. Under pressure, the Egyptian authorities eventually agreed to allow the Convoy through, where they spent 48 hours delivering aid to Gazan medical facilities.

Egypt is currently constructing an underground steel wall to block Gaza’s one remaining reliable connection to the outside. Rafah’s tunnel network provides food, fuel, livestock, building materials and, during last year’s bombing, two German doctors to the Strip’s besieged citizens. Using US technical assistance and US ‘development’ money, if this iron wall is completed Gaza’s Palestinians will be made to pay for electing Hamas and reduced to surviving off the meagre supplies that Israel and Egypt allow through the crossing they control.

While Egypt is mostly following US-Israeli orders, the Egyptian state has its own axe to grind with Hamas. Within Egypt Mubarak and his secular pro-US party’s biggest political rivals are the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite being officially banned the Islamists have a huge following throughout Egyptian society. Hamas began its life as the Gazan wing of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. A successful Islamist government on the other side of the Rafah crossing is a major headache for the Mubarak administration, and so with the US and Israel gunning for Hamas, its been all to easy for the Egyptian state to play ball.

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Keywords: gaza, israel, palestine


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