The sad state of the Rafah Crossing

The EU Representative to the Palestinian Authority, Christian Berger, said in an interview in East Jerusalem that the EU stands ready, if asked, to “come back and resume the tasks of monitoring the [Rafah] crossing point”.

As part of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, a bilateral agreement between Israel, after its unilateral “disengagement” from Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority (PA), the EU played a required “Third Party” monitoring role in what they named their EU Border Assistance Mission, or EUBAM.  The Europeans tweaked the mandate, however, to include provision of assistance in the form of Palestinian capacity-building.

Asked if there needs to be a new agreement, now that Egypt has made an apparently unilateral decision to open its only border crossing with Gaza, via Rafah, Berger replied that this “has to be discussed with the parties, to find what they want and what they need.  Again, the European Union has offered its assistance.  So, if it’s seen necessary, if it’s seen useful, they we are ready to do this.  And we still have a small contingent in Ashkelon that can be deployed and can be expanded, if necessary, to the size as it used to be before the closure of Rafah”.

Berger said: “One important element of the agreement was that the Israeli authorities would be informed of what was going on at the crossing point.  This was partly through live feed video transmissions, and partly through on-line computer transmissions of all the ID card numbers of people who were crossing, in either way.  But, it’s an integral part of the agreement, so when these transmissions — or the work of the liaison office in Kerem Shalom — was not possible, then the border post had to be closed.  That’s an integral part of the agreement”.

The liaison office was staffed by a tripartite group of Palestinians, Israelis and Europeans.  It was  located at Kerem Shalom, near where IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit was captured in a raid from Gaza in late June 2006, just six months after the Agreement went into effect.  Shalit is still being held, reportedly somewhere in Gaza.

Continue reading The sad state of the Rafah Crossing

Nabil ElAraby named Foreign Minister of the new Egypt

Nabil El-Araby (ElAraby) has been named the Foreign Minister of the new Egypt.

A brilliant choice.

See his separate opinion on the Advisory Opinion on the Wall, here, written when he served as a Judge on the International Court of Justice:

“What I consider relevant to emphasize is that this special responsibility [of the United Nations for Palestine, as mentioned in the main body of the Advisory Opinion of July 2004] was discharged for five decades without proper regard for the rule of law. The question of Palestine has dominated the work of the United Nations since its inception, yet no organ has ever requested the International Court of Justice to clarify the complex legal aspects of the matters under its purview. Decisions with far-reaching consequences were taken on the basis of political expediency, without due regard for the legal requirements. Even when decisions were adopted, the will to follow through to implementation soon evaporated. Competent United Nations organs, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, have adopted streams of resolutions that have remained wholly or partially unfulfilled. The United Nations special responsibility has its origins in General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, hereafter the Partition Resolution”…

A musical interlude, the day after Mubarak gave Egypt to the military

Via Facebook (where else?), a pause for some day-after music, after all-night celebrations in Egypt’s Tahrir Square following Husni Mubarak’s instructions to the Egyptian military to take over running the country…for the time being.

Sawt al-Hurriya (Sout al-Horeya) – from a link shared on Facebook by Abed Alsalaam Abu Askar and Bill Van Esveld:
with Amir Eid – Hany Adel – Hawary On Guitar & Sherif On Keyboards

Tahiya Masr via a link on Facebook posted by Sabeel al-Quds:

And, the anthem of Tahrir Square, Irhal! (Get Out!)
We all want one thing, we are asking one thing: Irhal! Irhal! Irhal! Irhal!

"Farewell Friday": Mubarak did yesterday what he was required to do as President (transfer powers, amend constitution), so now what … ?

Today’s protests in Egypt were to be Jumua Sumud (Steadfastness Friday, in honor of those fallen in over three weeks of protests demanding freedom and democracy). but after Egypt’s President failed to announce his departure, as had been widely expected, they are now being called “Farewell Friday“.

In his speech on Thursday night, Husni Mubarak announced “in a speech from the heart, from a father to his children” that he had just (earlier in the day) “proposed amendments” to articles 76, 77, 88, 93, and 189 of the Egyptian constitution, and “annulment of article 179” (which, he said, “aimed to protect the nation against terrorists” (it is the basis for the State of Emergency).

This, Mubarak said, would “clear the way” to removing the Emergency Law “once the security situation is ensured”.

A few minutes later, after praising himself, Mubarak said “I have seen it is required to transfer powers to the Vice President”.

[CNN’s Wolf Blitzer reportedly asked Egypt’s Ambassador to the U.S. if Mubarak could take back his powers whenever he wanted — but got no answer]

Mubarak also vowed, in his stat “I will not separate from the soil until I’m buried beneath it”…

Here is an old photo (I took it on 24 June 2008) as Egyptian President Husni Mubarak’s small executive jet (in middle background) arrived at Sharm ash-Sheikh for a bi-annual summit meeting with Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:

Despite fears of violence and bloodshed overnight, it appears to have passed relatively calmly — the military avoided confrontations with the angry protesters who were furiously disappointed that Mubarak had not clearly announced his resignation.

Just after Mubarak’s statement, Egypt’s Vice-President called on protesters to go back to their homes, and to go to work… but that did not happen. Many thousands stayed overnight in Tahrir Square, while others went to surround the State TV studios, and to other governmental buildings. Many protesters in Alexandria said they were headed to a military headquarters.

Reports Friday morning say that Mubarak may now be in Sharm as-Sheikh, and that the military will make an “important announcement” before Friday prayers (which are due to start within the hour)…

Said Ghazali: Palestinians have heard the voice of the revolution coming from Egypt

By Sai’d Ghazali

The Palestinians who broke the barrier of fear against the Israeli occupation in the first and Second Intifadas haven’t yet broken it by revolting against our own Ramallah’s dictatorial and oppressive regime. But the Palestinians have heard the voice of the revolution coming from Egypt.

Our corrupt PLO factions, our mercenaries, our security forces trained by Americans and Israelis to oppress our own people and our so-called civil society stand in the camp of the enemy.

What’s the next step?

The next step is to break up the barrier of fear with all dictators and collaborators.

I send my message from the occupied Jerusalem in Palestine to those who do not understand, or they do not want to understand, that the thunderous Egyptian Revolution is heard by the millions of the Arabs living in Africa and Asia expanding from the Arab Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean.

I shout in my loudest voice: we’ve heard you, and soon you will hear from us.

There is no doubt that the Egyptian revolution will steadily and firmly move on every inch in the Arab world sweeping up all dictators and collaborators including our chief collaborator in Ramallah, simply because Egypt is the leader of the Arab nation in peace and war, in revolution and submission, in democracy and dictatorship.

This explains the attempts by the worried Americans and Israelis to save the dictatorial regime in Egypt; they want an Egyptian government to continue even without its dictator. They try to deceive the Egyptians and push them to accept cosmetic changes to the repulsive regime.

But their attempts wouldn’t succeed.

I’m not exaggerating, because the dictator and his gangsters stand alone facing the 84 million Egyptians, the American fleet which is now in front of Ismaililya would not scare them and wouldn’t be able to save the regime. It is impossible to defeat the millions who are now in the streets and the squares of Egypt.

Yes, Egypt, all Egypt, the face book’s youths, the old generation, the women, the Middle class, the intellectuals, the employees, the workers, the farmers, the unemployed, the residents in the cemeteries are in a dynamic revolutionary state against the regime, its dictator Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, its government, its security forces, its corporate business mafia, its political parties, its 20 TV and Radio stations, its mercenaries and thieves.

Yes, Egypt, the leader of the Arab world is dusting out the garbage of the tyranny on its face; Egypt is propelling the profound water stored in the aquifers of the seven thousand years old civilization.

I tell those politicians who still live in the past age before the January 25th revolution of anger, those leaders in America, Israel, and the West; I tell those Arab and non-Arab dictators that the mom ent of the truth has come.

I tell them that the Egyptians, after two weeks of continued protests by the millions have finished writing the first two chapters in their revolution, which is the first revolution in the 21ist century that the Tunisian has the honor of writing its prelude, last December.

“Bread, freedom and dignity” were the first three words written in the chapter which is tweeted up by Wael Gonim and other hundreds of twitters on January 25th, 2011, which marks the police day, calling on the masses to demonstrate in the Cairo’s streets. The few hundred protestors who rushed onto the streets clashing with the security forces have quickly grown up to 10,000, then 20,000, and 30,000.

On the next Friday, the Interior Minister who couldn’t act without the green light from the dictator ordered the Security Central Forces to open fire on the masses which demonstrated peacefully, killing and wounding hundreds of people marching and praying on Sitteh October Bridge.

That was the beginning of the comprehensive revolution; now the ground-breaking genie energized by the three decades of oppression and frustration and thuggish deeds practiced by the Mubarak regime is gaining the momentum, shaking up the Mubarak family dictatorship.

The Egyptians have shattered the barrier of fear in the week of anger and expanded their revolution horizontally and vertically in the week of departure.

We are waiting for the third chapter in the third week of martyrs.

This article has also been published on the website of BikyaMasr, here.

Ya Rab!

This is the picture posted today on one of the front pages of the U.S. State Department website:

Shot of Tahrir Square - on US State Dept website - Apparently an AP photo

[The front page, here, has changing content — if this picture doesn’t turn up immediately, just enter the word “Egypt” in the search box on the opening page. The use of this photo is a real message — one of a series sent from Washington today.]

The U.S. has steadily firmed up its position over the past week on the need for a transition in Egypt — which it says should start now. Now, President Obama said on 1 February, after Husni Mubarak announced he would serve until the next scheduled elections in September. Now, the spokespersons of both the White House and the State Department said on 2 February. And, that was yesterday…

Also yesterday, a U.S. special envoy, former Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner was recalled to Washington after a couple of days talk in Cairo, with Husni Mubarak and with his newly-named Vice President, Egypt’s Intelligence Chief General Omar Suleiman. There was no reason for him to stay, sources in Washington commented, after a horrendous day of attacks on protesters in Tahrir Square on Wednesday. Wisner is now briefing the administration in Washington.

Overnight, pitched battles continued in Tahrir Square. Protesters repetetively shouted “Ya Rab” (roughly equivalent to “Oh, God”), in unison, as a rallying cry as they rebuffed attacks. At around 4 am Thursday, there was an assault from snipers posted on the rooftops of surrounding buildings who shot at protestors with live fire. There were a number of deaths.

Thursday was marked by a coordinated campaign of attacks, arrests, confiscation of equipment and intimidation — conducted apparently by the military — against journalists + foreign journalists, and against international + Egyptian Human Rights workers.

Human Rights Watch’s Joe Stork, who is in Cairo, told Al-Jazeera English that “it’s the government’s responsibility to protect the right to freedom of assembly, but this government has abjectly failed in this responsibility”. In fact, Stork said, there’s every reason to think that the government party has been behind the violent attacks on anti-Mubarak demonstrators in recent days, and he suggested that the role of the governing party is what we should be looking at — the Army, he said, is only part of this. “The Army role has been very ambiguous, very passive, and reflects the criminal negligence of the government”.

Stork said that one thing HRW would be “taking a very close look at now is what has been happening to those people who have been identified as organizers of the present protests, people like Ahmad Maher, who has been detained, one of the group who set up the ‘We are all Khaled Said’ page on Facebook”. Khaled Said, a 28-year-old blogger, was accosted by plainclothes policemen while sitting at a cafe in Alexandria, and was brutally beaten to death within hours, apparently in the entry halls of nearby buildings, and his bloodied and broken body was dumped not far away (see our earlier posts here).

The administrator of the “We are all Khaled Said” Facebook page, Wael Ghonim, an Egyptian national who works abroad as a marketing executive for Google, just happened to be in Egypt for a conference when the protests broke out. He was taken away by the police days ago, and has not been seen since. He is still missing.

On Thursday, State Department Spokesperson P.J. Crowley said at his regular daily press briefing that the detentions of journalists etc. “do not seem to be random events”. He did note that the U.S. Embassy has been “using its security officers” to make contacts with their Egyptian counterparts to keep track of what is happening and to gain their release.

A day earlier, P.J. Crowley made a clear distinction between the anti-Mubarak protestors and the pro-government mobs that suddenly rushed into Tahrir Square and mounted hours of sustained and deadly attacks on the protestors, who defended themselves.

Crowley stated Wednesday that “what’s imperative is that officials in Egypt heed what the Egyptian people are demanding. These are demonstrations that have been very compelling. These are demonstrations that underscore the aspirations – the unfulfilled aspirations, of the Egyptian people. And these demonstrators are not going away. This is gathering momentum. They are sending a clear message … let me differentiate between those who can bring forward their perspective on current events as opposed to the thugs that we saw on the streets today who have – clearly trying to intimidate those people who have been peacefully protesting and expressing their strong views about a different kind of future for Egypt”.

About the pro-government mobs, Crowley said: “we don’t know who unleashed these thugs on the streets of Cairo. They’ve been identified as supporters of the government. But whoever they are, they need – there needs to be accountability here. This was clearly an attempt at intimidating the protesters who have been communicating to the government and insisting on change”.

And, Crowley noted, “the violence today just underscores how urgent the situation is. The longer that this goes unresolved, the greater the danger of further violence”.

The newly-named Vice President, General Suleiman, said today that an investigation would be mounted into who was responsible for unleashing the pro-government mobs on Wednesday, and that they would be found and punished. He said he had been having a dialogue with the opposition, but it was not possible to determine who, exactly, he had been speaking to. Nor, by his own account in a later television interview, did it seem like much of a dialogue.

An Al-Jazeera reporter in Washington noted Thursday evening that while General Suleiman had called, today, for foreigners to stop giving advice to Egypt, the State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley later said that the U.S. is “continuing to give advice to our Egyptian partners about the demonstration tomorrow”, Friday. Protest organizers have been saying that Friday’s demonstrations would be Mubarak’s “Day of Departure”.

ABC TV news has today compiled + updated a list of “all the journalists who have been in some way threatened, attacked or detained while reporting in Egypt. When you put it all into one list, it is a rather large number in such a short period of time”. This list is published here.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has prepared which its own list, which is posted here.

Meanwhile, ABC’s Christiane Amanpour (formerly of CNN) was granted an interview with President Husni Mubarak today. According to reports, Mubarak told her that he wants to leave office — and is fed up after 62 years in public service — but, he said, if he resigns today, there’ll be chaos. Mubarak has, however, demonstrably failed to prevent chaos in the past ten days…

One of the commentors on Al-Jazeera English said tonight, however, that Mubarak said the same thing in 1981, after the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Mubarak said then that he was only going to serve one term, in order to restore stability.

Later tonight, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “We condemn in the strongest terms the attacks on reporters covering the situation in Egypt. This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press and it is unacceptable under any circumstances”.

Clinton added “We also condemn in the strongest terms attacks on peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, foreigners, and diplomats”.

She noted that “freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press are pillars of an open and inclusive society. It is especially in times of crisis that governments must demonstrate their adherence to these universal values”.

And, Clinton said, “the Egyptian government must demonstrate its willingness to ensure journalists’ ability to report these events to Egypt and to the world”.

, ,

At least 1 out of every 80 Egyptians are already in the streets

UPDATE: Very late at night, after speaking to a special U.S. envoy (former Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner), Husni Mubarak made a pre-recorded statement to the country. He said the protests have been heard, but that he would stay until elections now set for September (he would not run, he said. Mubarak also said he would not leave the country. Two hours later (after another 30-minute post-Mubarak-speech phone conversation), U.S. President Barack Obama said that “An orderly transition must be meaningful, must be peaceful and must begin now” Of course, it all depends on what one means by “begin”, and what one means by “now”… At least one million people were out on the streets throughout the country during the day — estimates ranged as high as 4 million, or even 8 million (one-tenth of the total population)…

Today is the “million-man (+ women)” march, which started in the morning.

Estimates by 10am were that there were at least 500,000 people already in Tahrir Square.

More people are continuing to stream to Tahrir Square, and demonstrators are also moving in other cities around the country.

One said (in an interview posted on Brian Whitaker’s blog, Al-Bab) that if the Egyptian government is satisfied that it is allowing “democratic expression” in Tahrir Square, then the idea would be to move, today, to protest in front of the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis.  The entire regime must go, this man said, not just the government…

The internet was totally shut down in Egypt last night (so much for U.S. President Obama’s call last Friday to turn it back on).

Snaps from Egypt

This via a recommendation on Twitter by Ali Abunimah [@avinunu]. It was posted to YouTube on 29 January. Al-Jazeera English just reported that it was filmed on Friday 28 January (the “day Egyptians lost their fear”,  the AJE narrator said), at what was labelled 6 October bridge but which someone in Cairo corrected to Qasr an-Nil bridge:

It was not until the next day that we began to get an idea, just an idea, of the death toll in the protests around Egypt.

Below, this report — a rare report from several hospital morgues around Egypt — gives a small glimpse of the casualties.

Estimates of the total figure has not been updated since mid-day Saturday.

No one knows, yet, how many have died at protests around Egypt in the past week.

According to other Tweets (just below), this is the video that got Al-Jazeera banned in Egypt.
@julieposetti RT @khadijapatel: This is the story from the Cairo morgue that got #AJE banned in #Egypt #jan25:

Or, go to this page here.

Israel + Egypt (+ US too) coordinate new security moves in Sinai

“As far as I know, yesterday and the day before [Friday + Saturday], Israel agreed to authorize the Egyptian military to bring more people into the Sinai”, Israeli Brigadier-General Tzvika Foghel said in an interview on Sunday.

Foghel, who has served in Israel’s Southern Command where he occasionally is recalled for active duty, said that to his knowledge, this involved some 100 to 150 Egyptian Army personnel.

Israel’s agreement was limited, and given only for “a couple of days, during these days [of large-scale and widespread popular protest against Egyptian President Husni Mubarak]”, Foghel noted.

These exceptional Egyptian military personnal have now deployed all along the border, from Gaza to Eilat, with some stationed near the Egyptian Sinai port of El-Arish, he indicated.

“We have the same interests”, Foghel said.

Yossi Gurvitz wrote on his blog, Wish you Orwell, here and on the website of +972 magazine, a collective of Israeli bloggers, here, that “It’s hard to believe the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] is not aware of Egyptian army movements into Sinai, which is technically an invasion and a breach of the peace accords. If the Egyptians acted without coordinating their movements with Israel, this is very troubling news; such a move, after all, led to the Six Days War. If the act was coordinated, then someone in the government has to explain under what authority he acts. The peace accords were approved by the Knesset, and changing them would conceivably require its approval. Furthermore, the issue raises the question of whether Israel supports the Mubarak regime against its own citizens”.

But, as it turns out, the IDF has been fully involved in the Egyptian Army’s deployment this weekend.

It seems clear that planned and internationally-coordinated steps have been taken to ensure there would be no security vacuum, in preparation for any eventuality in Egypt.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly said on American television news interview programs Sunday that “We want to see an orderly transition so that no one fills a void, that there not be a void”.

Juan Cole wrote on his Informed Comment blog here, today, that “Leaders who have authority do not have to shoot people. The Mubarak regime has had to shoot over 100 people in the past few days, and wound more. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have ignored Mubarak’s command that they observe night time curfews. He has lost his authority”.

According to a story on the freewheeling Israeli website,, “Early Sunday, the Egyptian army quietly began transferring armored reinforcements including tanks through the tunnels under the Suez from Egypt proper eastward to northern Sinai … Our Jerusalem sources report the Netanyahu government may have tacitly approved it”.

However, the Israeli military has indeed given its explicit approval.

According to the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel [and its subsequent annexes] negotiated at Camp David by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Israel’s full withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, which finally took place in 1982, was conditioned on the complete and permanent demilitarized of the Sinai.

Under the strict terms, a maximum of 750 Egyptian military personnel are to be allowed in the Sinai at any given time.

But, according to Foghel, “the soldiers should be only from the Egyptian national guard or from the border police”

After the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security Forces in Gaza in mid-June 2007, Egypt requested Israel’s agreement to double – to 1500 – the number of Egyptian military personnel deployed in Sinai to deal with the new situation. After considerable debate within the Israeli military, this request was denied. The argument was won by Israeli military officers who suspected that Egypt was only using the situation as an excuse to increase its military deployment at Israel’s southern border.

Israeli Brigadier-General (Ret.) Shlomo Brom, now an analyst in Tel Aviv’s Institute of National Security Studies (INSS), said that though he doesn’t recall the exact numbers, there was eventually agreement, in talks between the two sides, on an increase in the numbers. This seems to have happened after the Hamas-engineered toppling of a wall along the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Rafah in January 2008 – as tightened Israeli-military-administered sanctions caused the shut-down in Gaza’s only electrical power plant due to a shortage of industrial diesel fuel supplied exclusively via Israel.

Foghel indicated that there is no need, under the Camp David treaty, for Egypt to obtain permission for any number of additional non-military police personnel.

Obtaining Israel’s agreement for any Egyptian special forces or members of the Egyptian intelligence services would usually be obtained through Israeli Foreign Ministry personnel, who would liaise with the Israeli Army to get permission, Foghel said.

The U.S.-led Multinational Force Observers are based near Rafah in the Sinai to monitor the situation, in accordance with the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty (+ annexes).

Meanwhile, in the past couple of days, there have been confusing and contradictory reports about what is going on now in the Sinai.

Israel’s said, in the same story referred to above, that members of the Izzedin al-Qasem brigades crossed from the Gaza Strip into the Sinai Peninsula overnight [Saturday to Sunday], and battled Egyptian Interior Ministry special forces in Rafah and in El-Arish.

The Debka story, posted here, also reported that this infiltration was coordinated with “Bedouin tribesmen and local Palestinians”, who were simultaneously engaged in clashes with Egyptian forces, also in Rafah and in El-Arish.

Fogel said that this report is “probably right, in the circumstances – though these days they have been acting with more common sense”.

Earlier, there were reports from Gaza that Egyptian forces had left Rafah, but that Gaza’s Interior Ministry had subsequently secured the border.

Meanwhile, a second scenario – on which Foghel would not comment – involved the possible re-deployment of the Israeli Army from the Philadelphi Corridor, a narrow dirt road that runs all along the southern Gaza border with Egypt from which the IDF withdrew at the time of the unilateral Israeli “disengagement” ordered by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005.

Israeli Army planners have kept the redeployment scenario [along the Philadelphi Corridor] on the back burner, but still warm, in recent years.

There are indications that, with agreement of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority that may now be in place, Israeli redeployment in the Philadelphi Corridor – on a temporary and pragmatic basis – is now again under consideration.

The tacit consent of Hamas would also be required for Israeli redeployment along the Philadelphi corridor – and may also have recently been given.

For this reason, the INSS’s Shlomo Brom says he finds this scenario far-fetched and very hard to believe. “This would mean war in Gaza”, he said. Why? “Because Hamas is in control. Whether the Palestinian Authority agrees or disagrees is meaningless, because they don’t control the Gaza Strip … It would mean the temporary reoccupation of Gaza”.

In the current circumstances, however, Hamas might find it possible to go along with such an arrangement, if clearly temporary – and if it is linked to a broader political arrangement which would envisage a better solution for Hamas than the present scenario.

Hamas might also have no choice.

The Jerusalem Post’s well-connected defense correspondent Yaakov Katz reported on Sunday here that “Regime change in Egypt would force the IDF to reallocate resources and possibly increase its strength in the South, senior defense officials warned on Saturday”.

Katz said that the Israeli Military had set up special teams working both in Beersheva in the Israeli Negev and in the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv.

He added in his JPost story that “Israeli concerns regarding Egypt relate to several issues but focus on the long-term strategic effect Mubarak’s downfall would have on the country and the Muslim Brotherhood’s potential to take over the country. The Brotherhood has said that one of the first things it would do would be to rip up the peace treaty. Israel is also concerned about the effect a regime change would have on Egypt’s border with Gaza, where security forces have recently been working more aggressively to stop arms smuggling to Hamas. While weaponry and explosives have still made their way to the Strip, the security forces have nonetheless been effective in curbing the flow. ‘A change in power could change what happens on the border

The Elders enter Gaza via Rafah

The Elders have entered the Gaza Strip today via the Rafah crossing from Egypt, after holding talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Husni Mubarak.

CORRECTION: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is apparently not with the group in Gaza, but will instead join them later.

Former Irish President Mary Robinson — who subsequently served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights — is in Gaza as Delegation leader of this group. In her time as High Commissioner, Mary Robinson being driven in a UN vehicle when it was fired upon while touring areas under Israeli control during the height of the second Palestinian intifada.

She noted in a statement today that “I was last here in 2008, just before the Gaza war. The situation has deteriorated to a shocking extent since then. This is not a humanitarian crisis – it is a political crisis and it can be solved politically. It is unconscionable and unacceptable that Israel and the international community have not lifted the blockade fully to allow Gazans to rebuild their lives and be part of the interconnected world that we take for granted. The easing of the blockade may mean more goods can be imported, but people are not free to come and go, reconstruction materials are still highly restricted, there is no real economy to speak of, and I have no doubt that things are not just stagnant – they are going backwards.”

Continue reading The Elders enter Gaza via Rafah