CAIRO — An American group arriving here tomorrow from war-torn Gaza will deliver a letter penned by Hamas officials to Pres. Obama, who will be in Cairo delivering his landmark speech to the Arab world.
At 9 a.m. June 4, the delegation of journalists, social workers, professors and activists will carry the letter to the U.S. Embassy here along with a petition signed by more than 10,000 Americans asking Obama to go to Gaza to witness the impact of the recent Israeli invasion there and its ongoing blockade of the Gaza border.
“Obama should go to Gaza and see the devastation for himself, or send envoy George Mitchell,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women’s peace group CODEPINK, which led the group through Gaza. “There is be no significant improvement in relations between the United States and the Arab world until the U.S. begins to deal directly with Hamas and shows its commitment to the rights of both Palestinians and Israelis.”
The 66-person delegation was allowed through the Rafah, Egypt checkpoints into Gaza May 30, bringing toys, school supplies and playground building supplies, and built three small playgrounds there (view photos here). The delegation met with government officials, including the Ministers of Health and Education, members of Parliament, the Speaker of the Legislative Council and the Deputy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Delegates also met with visiting schools, hospitals, mental health workers, human rights lawyers, businessmen and women’s groups.
The group was shocked by the brutality of the Israeli invasion that killed more than 1,400, displaced more than 50,000 people and destroyed approximately 4,000 homes. They were also appalled by the effects of the 21-month siege that has virtually sealed the borders and constitutes a form of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.
“The siege in Gaza is keeping the people in a virtual prison and it must be lifted,” said CODEPINK member Tighe Barry. “We are appealing to the president to act now to stop this humanitarian crisis and truly move the peace process forward.”