Some 1,000 people, among them all of Israel's Arab MKs and community leaders, gathered Thursday at the Israeli side of the Gaza border to express solidarity with the residents of Gaza, one year after Israel's offensive there. MK Taleb A-Sana relayed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh's message to the Israeli side via a mobile phone.
During the rally, Israeli Arab MK Jamal Zahalka directed harsh criticism at Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who he said enjoys "classical music and killing children in Gaza."
The terror emerging from the Gaza Strip was a result of Israel's actions against Palestinians, Zahalka told the protesters.
Haniyeh told activists gathered on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the Gaza border that residents of the besieged territory had not given up hope and would never stop fighting for a state, with Jerusalem as its capital.
"Because of international solidarity and your support, we have become stronger," Haniyeh declared. "The Palestinian nation will never give up its national aspirations or its right to Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine and the Islamic people."
On the Gaza side of the border, nearly 100 international activists joined about 500 Palestinians, chanting and carrying signs denouncing the blockade.
Egypt allowed 84 pro-Palestinian foreign activists to march into Gaza, Egyptian officials in the North Sinai governorate said.
Some 1,400 activists from 43 countries have gathered in Cairo since Sunday to mark the first anniversary Operation Cast Lead. Egypt said 100 activists were allowed to pass through
"Egyptian authorities made an exception and opened the Rafah border on Wednesday and allowed activists from the Gaza Freedom March to pass through," Alhamy Aref, secretary-general of the North Sinai governorate, said.
The Israeli Arab protesters on the Israeli side waved the flag of the Palestine Liberation Organization as they rallied against Israel's continued blockade of Gaza, accusing Israel of starving the Palestinian people.
The 86 international activists began touring the Gaza Strip on Thursday, in an expression of solidarity with Palestinians living there under the Israeli blockade.
They were also scheduled to tour areas hit in the Israeli bombardments, visit Gaza's Shifa hospital, and meet with community leaders, said Hamdi Shaath, the head of the pro-Hamas Committee to Defeat the Blockade.
Tighe Berry, the spokesman of the group, said Hedy Epstein, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, had remained behind in Cairo.
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