Monday, October 6, 2008

Egyptian police stop Muslim Brotherhood aid convoy to gaza.

Dozens of activists from Egypt's radical opposition Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, were arrested Monday after attempting to send a supply convoy to the blockaded Gaza Strip, the organization and Egyptian security officials said. In a novel twist, the secular Kifaya (enough!) movement had joined forces with the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps signalling that "liberal democratic" forces in Egypt are no longer so interested in peace with Israel.

Abdel-Fatah Rizq, who was coordinating the convoy for the extremist group, claimed police arrested at least 50 activists when they tried to gather at the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo before making the 200 mile (300 kilometer) journey across the Sinai desert to the border.

"Activists from all over the provinces were planning on joining the convoy on its way through the Sinai to Rafah crossing," said Rizq. The Muslim Brotherhood Website claimed that some activists, including parliament members, slipped through security to reach Rafah on the border.

Police stated that  three members of the Brotherhood were arrested at the Suez Canal Sunday night while trying to reach the border. Other opposition movements had joined the Muslim Brotherhood for their protest and convoy.  In Rafah, another 14 activists from the secular Kifaya movement were arrested while staging a protest.

Organizers decided to halt the convoy in hopes of negotiating the release of the detainees, said Mahmoud el-Khodairy, a convoy coordinator and retired judge.

Sympathy for the Palestinians blockaded in Gaza by Egypt and Israel runs high among Egyptians, and especially the opposition, which periodically attempts to send food and medicine convoys to the border, partly to embarrass the government for its role in the blockade. The Egyptian government prohibits protest against the government, but encourages extremist attacks on Israel and on Jews in government and semi-governmental media. The Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for the murder of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and are natural allies of the Hamas, which is essentially an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

President Hosni Mubarak stated that Egypt would not reopen the crossing as long as Hamas controls Gaza.

"We are still committed to the 2005 agreement," Mubarak was quoted as saying on Monday. He was referring to the agreement under which the Palestinian authority, Israel and EU monitors were supposed to supervise the Rafah crossing.

On Monday, authorities opened the crossing to let 67 Palestinians returning from the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia back into Gaza.

Hamas wrested control of Gaza in June 2007, prompting the blockade by Israel and Egypt and the withdrawal of European monitors. Hamas and sympathizers have spread horror stories about "Gaza under siege," but photos show shops full of merchandize in Gaza.

Public demonstrations, other than those organized by the government,  are not tolerated in Egypt. Thousands of riot police and plainclothes officers surrounded the streets around the syndicate and chased activists into nearby buildings. Several journalists were detained and their cameras were confiscated.

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