British human rights activist trapped in the Gaza strip

By staff writers
11 Sep 2008

British human rights activist and journalist Lauren Booth has been trapped illegally in the Gaza strip as a result of a legal campaign calling for an end to the Israeli government blockade there, say Palestinian activists.

The international Free Gaza Movement (www.freegaza.org) sailed two boats, the Free Gaza and Liberty from Cyprus to the port of Gaza this summer (2008).

The aim was to break the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip and to deliver a symbolic cargo of humanitarian aid to the area. The two boats, carrying two Palestinian families, both of whom desperately needed to leave Gaza, then, returned to Cyprus via sea.

Lauren Booth, one of the Free Gaza Movement campaigners on the voyage, along with several others, gave up her place on the returning boats to enable the two Palestinian families to leave Gaza for Cyprus.

Since then Ms Booth, a British citizen, has tried to leave Gaza via the Eretz crossing into Israel and via the Rafah crossing into Egypt. She has been turned back from both crossings.

An official statement by the Israeli Defence Ministry on 25 August 2008 declared that the Free Gaza Movement did not violate any laws, and that the Movement's sailing two ships from Cyprus to Gaza posed no "security threat" (Ha'aretz).

Israel did not intervene in the sailing by the "Free Gaza" and "Liberty", or in their return to Cyprus. However, officials from Egypt have adopted Israel's subsequent (and contradictory) position that the Free Gaza participants entered Gaza "illegally". Cypriot authorities approved the sea voyage, a journey that did not need approval from Egypt or Israel under international law.

The Palestine Solidarity Camapign (http://www.palestinecampaign.org/) said yesterday: "The politically motivated decisions on the part of the Egyptian and Israeli government appears to be intended to punish the participants in the Free Gaza Movement for lawfully bypassing Israeli and Egyptian restrictions, restrictions that make travel to and from Gaza virtually impossible."

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