Rafah convoys turned back, activists protest at Israeli embassy

CAIRO: Convoys carrying activists and aid heading to the Rafah border were turned back at Ismailia on Sunday as hundreds protested in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo to support the “Third Palestinian Intifada.”

Activists said numerous checkpoints were set up on the road towards Rafah and no one was allowed to pass unless their national ID identified North Sinai as their residence.

A number of participants were arrested by the military, activists told Daily News Egypt.

“All convoys were blocked on Friday and Saturday at Al-Salam Bridge and Ahmed Hamdy Tunnel and were forced to turn back by the army. However, we decided to organize a protest in front of the Israeli embassy instead,” said Mohamed Al-Hadary, an activist who was part of the convoy that moved from Tahrir Square on Friday.

A number of activists managed to reach Rafah with the help of local residents and organized a peaceful protest in front of the crossing to mark the establishment of the state of Israel 63 years ago, in what is commonly referred to in Arabic as the “Nakba” or “catastrophe.”

“We were stopped at Al-Arish and only the residents of the city were allowed through; however we managed to get in,” said Khaled Salah, an activist and coordinator of the Egyptian International Coalition to Break the Siege on Gaza.

“Security measures here are tightened, the army has deployed cordons across the city and refused requests to organize a demonstration; however, there were no clashes between activists and the army,” he told DNE from Rafah.

The Ministry of Interior issued a statement Sunday urging Egyptians not to respond to calls for participating in planned marches to the borders with Gaza and to consider “the critical and important circumstances the country is undergoing.”

Activists held a sit-in Saturday at Al-Salam Bridge in Ismailia demanding entry into Sinai before ending their sit-in amid threats that thugs were planning to attack them, according to press reports.

“The army called transportation companies on Friday and forced them to cancel the contracts with us to provide buses but we managed to hire private buses but were blocked at Ismailia,” said Mohamed Awad, member of the Coordinating Committee for the March to Gaza (CCMG).

“It was the army who forced us to end the sit-in and blocked aid convoys at Al-Salam Bridge,” he added.

Awad said that he saw three activists being arrested at the gates of Ismailia.

According to activists, a convoy set up by Arab Doctors Union carrying medical aid was allowed into Gaza.

Convoys headed on Friday from Tahrir Square to Rafah but were blocked on Al-Salam Bridge, while others who moved on Saturday weren’t allowed into the city of Ismailia.

The army dispersed a protest demanding the expulsion of the ambassador and breaking ties with Israel in front of the Israeli embassy Friday night.

The convoys are organized by internet activists as well as political parties and youth movements including April 6, the Labor Party, the Democratic Front Party, Al-Karama Party and the Muslim Brotherhood.

They were supposed to be joined by many others in the Arab world as part of a collective call for a “Third Intifada” against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land marking Nakba Day.

(thedailynewsegypt.com / 15.05.2011)

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