An 85-year-old survivor of the Nazi holocaust has begun a hunger strike in response to the Israeli authorities' denial of human rights in Gaza.
Hedy Epstein is part of a group who began hunger strikes in Cairo on Monday (28 December) after Egypt refused to allow them access to Gaza to join a peaceful solidarity march.
Around 1,300 protesters from 42 countries have travelled to Egypt in an attempt to enter Gaza, but the Egyptian government is refusing to allow any of them through the border. The nonviolent march had been planned to mark the first anniversary of Israel's war in Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
“I'll do whatever it takes,” said Epstein, admitting that, “I've never done this before. I don't know how my body will react”.
Her stance was welcomed in Britain by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, who said that “it's important Muslims acknowledge people like this”.
Amnesty International has expressed its frustration with the lack of investigation into the many allegations of war crimes surrounding the Gaza conflict. On Sunday (27 December), Amnesty's Malcolm Stuart insisted that “There must be accountability for what happened in Gaza and southern Israel one year ago”.
He added, “Those responsible, on both sides, cannot be allowed to evade accountability for the crimes that were committed. If the Israelis and Palestinians cannot – or will not – deliver justice themselves, the international community must ensure that the perpetrators are held to account."
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters, including Hedy Epstein, remain outside the United Nations offices in Cairo. Their banners and T-shirts carry slogans such as “We will not be silent” and “The audacity of war crimes”.
They include a Philippine senator, Walden Bello, who insisted that “We will wait as long as it takes”.