Here are two updates from the Canadian contingent. First, from Dave Bleakney of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers:
Thirteen hundred people are stranded in Cairo seeking to bring humanitarian aid and build people to people relationships with those in Palestine seeking peace, reconciliation and respect.
The Canadian and other western governments appear complicit and accomplices in preventing civil society exchanges involving students, seniors, trade unionists, and women's organizations. Supporting and aiding the building of direct links outside the political structures of Hamas and the Israeli government seems an undesirable act by our governments and those that purport to represent us. The Canadian government has a poor track record in protecting Canadians abroad.
In the last days the intensity of police response, both undercover and overt has increased. Frequently plainclothes officers visit hotels after groups have left obtaining personal and confidential information about the marchers.
The Gaza Freedom March and other international groups have been denied entry to Gaza and face ongoing police harassment.
The French solidarity movement that camped out on the street in front of their embassy last night were given assurances that they would receive buses and passage that never occurred. At last report (a few hours ago) they were surrounded by riot police in front of their embassy. Internationalists who joined them from around the world were eventually released. The Italian delegation that was to leave from Giza, a suburb of Cairo, at 5 am this morning was stuck after their chartered transportation did not arrive. They are currently marching several kilometres to the Italian embassy. One Australian women who was abducted from her hotel over night and taken to a police station near the Gaza-Egypt border was eventually released.
There are false reports that Egypt is allowing small groups to pass. None of the humanitarian groups have been permitted passage.
Egyptian supporters have been badly beaten.
Currently hundreds are meeting in front of UNESCO here in Cairo in hopes that the world will awaken, in spite of mainstream media omission and disinformation to the injustices occurring in this region.
What is wrong with bringing aid and recognition that Palestinians are human beings under siege and deserving of peace and justice?
Please contact your political representatives and reiterate what is needed here is less, not more violence.
And from Sandra Ruch, Canadian delegate:
Hedy Epstein, the 85 year old Holocaust survivor and peace activist, announced that she will begin a hunger strike today as a response to the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow the Gaza Freedom March participants into Gaza.
Ms. Epstein was part of a delegation with participants from 43 countries that were to join Palestinians in a non-violent march from Northern Gaza towards the Erez border with Israel calling for the end of the illegal siege. Egypt is preventing the marchers from leaving Cairo, forcing them to search for alternative ways to make their voices heard.
Ms. Epstein will remain outside the UN building at the World Trade Center (Cairo) - 1191 Cornish al-Nil, throughout today, accompanied by other hunger strikers. "It is important to let the besieged Gazan people know they are not alone. I want to tell the people I meet in Gaza that I am a representative of many people in my city and in other places in the US who are outraged at what the US, Israeli and European governments are doing to the Palestinians and that our numbers are growing," Epstein said.
In 1939, when Epstein was just 14, her parents found a way for her to escape the persecution, sending her on the Kindertransport to England. Epstein never saw her parents again; they perished in Auschwitz in 1942. After World War II, Epstein worked as a research analyst at the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi doctors who performed medical experiments on concentration camp inmates.
After moving to the US, Epstein became an activist for peace and social justice causes. Unlike most Holocaust survivors, one of the causes she has taken up is that of the Palestinian people. She has traveled to the West Bank, collected material aid and now she hopes to enter Gaza.
My friend David Heap says (on Facebook): "We are blocked but we will not be stopped!" Twitterites can follow his updates on twitter.com/DavidHeap.