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Special Peace Team to Gaza, February 23, 2009

Photo taken by Fida

A view of the border area from Rafah, Gaza Strip... From 2001-2004 the Israeli military demolished thousands of Palestinian homes and neighborhoods on both sides of the gray wall to create the so called "Philadelphi corridor." This same "corridor" was bombed continuously during the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Gazans and Egyptians living near the border experienced the terror of this bombing.


As mentioned in previous reports, the Rafah Crossing is controlled by the Egyptian authorities and it is the "other way" to get into Gaza. Significantly, Rafah, Egypt is directly across from Rafah, Gaza Strip. Both are located along the so called Philadelphia corridor that was bombed repeatedly during the invasion of Gaza.

In spite of the fact that Egyptians are suffering terribly because of Israel's assault on Gaza, Egypt continues to honor its treaty with Israel and cooperates with Israel on many Palestinian issues. Border control is one example.

Sincerely believing that we were finally going to enter Gaza and be with our friends in this time of need, happily we made our way to the Rafah Crossing early this morning. We had good reason to be encouraged ... For the first time since February 5, Egypt opened this Rafah Crossing both yesterday and today.

As we approached gates we learned that people with Palestinian identity cards were being allowed to cross. This was VERY GOOD NEWS because many Palestinians have been waiting to enter Gaza since February 5. However, the disappointing news was that Egypt was not allowing foreigners to enter.

So we joined with many others who wait ... We waited with Palestinians who do not have identity cards because they are citizens of different countries. We waited with doctors from England who came to attend to the medical needs of Gazans. We waited with NGO representatives, who are ready to help with resources and assistance. We waited with representatives of groups prepared to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. Some of these wonderful people have been waiting for twenty days and more!

This crossing is on the outskirts of Rafah, Egypt. Late in the afternoon, we (Peter and Liz) went into the city with the hope of interviewing some residents. From the moment we approached the city, we experienced high tension in the air, and an atmosphere of high alert.

We learned that homes and neighborhoods in Rafah, Egypt were damaged during the Israeli bombing and invasion of the Gaza Strip. Also we heard that residents along the border had been evacuated a number of times due Israel's continued bombing of the Philadelphia corridor after the ceasefire.

As we proceeded toward the center of Rafah, Egypt, the extent of the Egyptian militarization was shocking. In the short distance to the town square, we went through nine military check points. During this time, we saw military and paramilitary armed with revolvers, rifles, and machine guns - many behind stacks of sand bags. Also, we witnessed armed guards stopping every car, and some pedestrians.

At the town square we were stopped again by plain clothes policemen who asked for our passports like so many others had done beforehand. They checked on us with authorities, returned our passports, called a taxi for us, and told us we had to leave. Since we did not want to add to the stress of these people, we willingly departed.

Tomorrow we plan to return to the Rafah Crossing in the hope that foreigners will be admitted. During our time there we will talk with people and offer our care, support, and appreciation. Also, whenever possible we will talk about the power of nonviolence in creating social change that leads to true peace with justice.

In all we say and do tomorrow, we'll continue to hold the people of Gaza in our hearts!

-- Peter and Liz

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