The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder, 415-235-6517
Pam Rasmussen, delegation coordinator, 301-518-0199 Jean Stevens, CODEPINK national media coordinator, 508-769-2138

Egyptian Government Attempts to Block Four Foreign Delegations From Reaching to Gaza Border

CODEPINK delegates say they will not turn back


As more
than 160 Americans and
other citizens from around the world begin arriving in Cairo with the
intent to cross into Gaza, the operators of Egyptian bus services say
they been prohibited by the Egyptian government from transporting them
to the border. The groups, made up of four delegations on the Egyptian
side and one on the Israeli side, are part of a CODEPINK Women for Peace campaign to bring humanitarian supplies and build playgrounds for the children of Gaza.

"We had chartered a private bus company to take us from Cairo to
Al-Arish, the closest town to the Rafah crossing into Gaza," explained
Sandra Ruch, who is leading a delegation of Canadians on the
humanitarian mission. "However, the operators tell us now that the
government has prohibited them from taking us anywhere near the border.
They obviously believe this tactic will keep us away, but we are
determined. The Gazans are completely isolated and struggling to
survive. We cannot abandon them."

The 10-member Canadian delegation is scheduled to be followed by a
14-member group from New York and a contingent of 40 students. The
largest of the CODEPINK delegations, numbering about 80, is scheduled
to set off for the border on May 29 - just days ahead of President
Barack Obama's landmark speech to the Arab world, planned for Cairo on
June 4. The CODEPINK delegations are invited to the Gaza Strip by the
United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The delegations plan to enter Gaza to focus attention on the need to
lift the 21-month blockade and to deliver medical supplies, toys and
sports equipment to the children there, who make up more than half of
Gaza's population. The groups are also bringing supplies for
playgrounds, since many of the schools and playgrounds were bombed
during Israel's invasion earlier this year, which killed more than
1,400, displaced more than 50,000 people and destroyed approximately
4,000 homes.

"The majority of Gazans are under 18, and many of the youth are
traumatized and depressed," said delegation coordinator Pam Rasmussen.
"Thousands are now living in rubble or cramped tents, while mourning
the deaths of loved ones and struggling to support their families
despite an unemployment rate in excess of 50 percent. It's important
for us to go there to show that the international community cares about
their plight."

The CODEPINK delegations are not alone. Three British medics began a
hunger strike at the Egyptian border crossing on May 21 to protest
being refused entry into Gaza to establish a cardiac surgery unit at
al-Shifa Hospital, which currently has no such facility, and to help
train medical students and junior doctors there. The British medics
have been denied access to the Palestinian territory at the Rafah
crossing since the beginning of May.

CODEPINK delegations say they are determined to get to the border and cross into Gaza.

"We call on the Egyptian government to facilitate our travel to Gaza,
not create obstacles," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK.
"President Obama is coming to Egypt on June 4 to speak to the Arab
world. He claims he wants to stand for peace and justice. We need to
start by lifting the blockade of Gaza."

For more information, please contact Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK
co-founder, at 415-235-6517, Pam Rasmussen, delegation coordinator, at
301-518-0199, or Jean Stevens, CODEPINK national media coordinator, at

CODEPINK is a women-led grassroots organization working to end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming programs.

(818) 275-7232