The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder, 0189561919
Pam Rasmussen, delegation coordinator, 0176731483
Jean Stevens, CODEPINK national media coordinator, (US tel.) 508-769-2138

66-Member American Delegation to Attempt Entry into Gaza TOMORROW

Launches campaign urging Obama to visit Gaza next week


To increase international pressure for Pres. Obama to call on Israel
to end its blockade of war-torn Gaza, just days before Obama delivers
his first speech from the Arab world here, TOMORROW a 66-person,
largely American delegation will attempt to cross through the heavily policed, blockaded Egyptian city of Rafah into Gaza.

WHAT: Departure (press conference) of American delegation to Gaza, to pressure Obama, Israel to end blockade
WHEN: 9 a.m., Friday, May 29
WHERE: Outside the Saudi Arabian Airlines office, Qasr Nile St., Cairo

The delegation, which will bring toys and playground building
materials for Gazan children, will also collect signatures for an
international petition calling on Obama to visit Gaza during his
upcoming Middle East tour so he can witness the damage himself. The
delegation will deliver to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo by June 4 in time
for his historic speech.

"We think if President Obama is
serious about being even-handed and reversing our country's past
favoritism towards Israel then he should visit Gaza himself," said
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and co-organizer
of the delegation. "We're sure that if he saw and heard about the
suffering personally, he would put the required pressure on the
governments of both Israel and Egypt to open the borders now."

international delegation, which will enter Gaza at the invitation of
the United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), will visit with
social service agencies that care for children, deliver sports
equipment and toys to schools, and build three playgrounds.

a women-led peace group, has led several delegations to Gaza to
witness, firsthand, the devastation caused by the 22-day Israeli
military attack on the Gaza Strip that began last December. The group
is particularly concerned about the children of Gaza, who make up more
than half of the population. Approximately 400 children were killed
during the 22 day attack and an estimated 1,346 Gazan children were
left without one or both of their parents as a result of the recent
Israeli assault. The majority of the children in Gaza were traumatized
by the attack and invasion.

"If President Obama can, at the
last minute, add a visit to Saudi Arabia to have a private dinner with
the King, then he certainly can go to Gaza," said Col. Ann Wright,
co-leader of the delegation and a retired U.S. Army colonel and a
former U.S. diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war.

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