Over 300 members and supporters of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) set out to accompany an emergency delivery of medical supplies to the Gaza Strip on Friday in protest at the current Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
PHR-Israel has already sent four convoys of much-needed aid to the hospitals of the Gaza Strip. Donations from hundreds of individuals and organisations, both locally and worldwide, from Muslims, Jews and Christians have funded these convoys.
PHR-Israel called on its supporters to accompany the fifth delivery of emergency medical supplies to the transfer at Kerem Shalom crossing, and to hold a demonstration there.
‘We wanted simply to say that we do not support our government’s actions in Gaza and that the only way to ensure safety for civilians is an immediate ceasefire. We oppose the killing of civilians, the attacks on medical teams and the obstructions in getting medical care to the wounded,’ says Miri Weingarten of PHR-Israel.
Three buses left Tel Aviv and others left from Jerusalem, Taybeh and Beersheba. Most of the buses were turned back by the Israeli authorities at roadblocks set up well before the crossing.
‘We were turned back. It’s so frustrating because there were so many people who wanted to join the quiet and peaceful accompaniment of medical supplies to the border with Gaza and we were not allowed to do this,’ says Ms Weingarten.
Instead, the PHR-Israel supporters held the demonstrations in front of the Israeli Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv and at the Yad Mordechai Junction, just north of Gaza.
‘The amazing thing was that many of our demonstrators were from the southern areas of Israel that have been worst affected by the rockets from Gaza. They were really taking the lead in discussions with the police.
‘They were saying “I am from Sderot and I do not believe that this operation improves my safety”. Joining together with them was a really great feeling, they were really amazing. It was also good, as they know all the regulations and were able to talk to the police as equals about the legality of demonstrations and public gatherings,’ says Ms Weingarten.
About an hour after the demonstrations had begun, two trucks carrying intensive care beds, equipment and supplies, medical equipment for operating rooms, and food were allowed to unload at Kerem Shalom crossing. All the supplies, worth about US$ 500,000, were sent to hospitals in Gaza.
‘We are asking people in the UK to understand that not everyone in Israel supports what is happening. We are asking them to tell others that there are many people in Israel who do not believe that these attacks improve Israel’s security, and who believe that the only way to peace is to stop all violence on both sides.
‘The only way to ensure safety for civilians is a ceasefire and the only way to get a ceasefire is international political intervention. Civilians around the world must encourage their governments to intervene,’ says Ms Weingarten.