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Nine Members of International Women’s Delegation Stay Behind in Gaza
A Palestinian delegate is detained at border, will attempt to cross again March 15
The rest of the 60 delegates crossed out of the war-torn region March 11 and will return to Cairo and home today and within the next few days.
The delegation, which includes Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker and organized by the peace group CODEPINK, was allowed through the Rafah, Egypt, crossing in time for International Women's Day, March 8. The crossing has been closed by the Egyptian government almost continuously since July 2007. However, Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, chairman of the Egyptian Red Crescent (similar to the Red Cross) and president of the National Women’s Committee, communicated her “blessing” of the mission through the Red Crescent team that escorted the delegation through the crossing.
“We want to send a message to the governments of both Egypt and Israel that the borders must be opened to all individuals and organizations," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK. " Long-term peace and prosperity are not possible without freedom of movement.”
The CODEPINK delegation was invited to the region by the Gender Initiative of the United Nations’ Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a program dedicated to promoting the rights of girls and women in the Gaza Strip. On the six-day visit in Gaza, the delegates met with social-service organizations and delivered more than 1,000 gift baskets to Gazan women and celebrated International Women's Day March 8. This weekend they plan to visit the Palestinian Human Rights Center, the Palestinian Relief Center, hospitals and farms.
The Red Crescent estimates that 1,000 truckloads of supplies and other goods are needed every day to meet the needs of the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip. Yet, the UN reports that the daily average has been only 125 truckloads since the borders closed about 18 months ago.
Also among the participants are Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, who was struck and killed six years ago this month by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to block the demolition of a Gazan home.