“We’re sorry to report that, despite our expectations, the authorities have not allowed the cement to pass through Rafah,” said Coalition Coordinator Ahmed Elassy. “This means that Egypt’s policy of supporting the four-year-old Zionist siege of Gaza Strip -- which was instituted by the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak -- remains in effect, contrary to the will of the vast majority of the Egyptian people.”
The shipment arrived at Rafah on Thursday, March 24, having been purchased from a local cement supplier. Over the weekend, Coalition members remained at the crossing -- which is closed to passengers and traffic on Friday and Saturday -- in hopes of obtaining official permission to enter the besieged coastal enclave on Sunday.
“Based on our recent positive experiences with the Egyptian Armed Forces and intelligence services -- along with the warm assistance we’ve received from the office of Egypt’s new foreign minister, HE Dr. Nabil al-Arabi -- we had hoped to bring the cement into the Gaza Strip on Sunday,” said Elassy. “But, unfortunately, official permission has yet to materialize.”
The initiative comes following the successful outcome of the Coalition’s earlier campaign on March 6, when it entered the strip via Rafah with a single, symbolic 50kg bag of cement. Despite its modest scope, this single bag of cement represented the first formal entry of building supplies into the Gaza Strip since the siege of the territory first went into effect in 2006.
It also constituted the first humanitarian aid delegation to enter the strip since Egypt’s January 25 Revolution, which led to Mubarak’s ouster following 30 years in power. Since Mubarak’s departure on February 11, the nation’s affairs have been run by Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
In light of this development, Coalition members have resolved to camp out at the Rafah crossing until the consignment -- which consists of some 200 bags of cement -- is allowed entry into the Gaza Strip.
“Egypt is under no legal obligation to maintain this blockade,” said Elassy. “So we plan to stay put until the relevant authorities grant us permission to cross with this shipment of cement.”
The embattled Gaza Strip remains in desperate need of reconstruction. Along with killing more than 1500 people, the three-week-long Zionist assault on the territory in 2008/2009 destroyed some 5000 residential units and partially destroyed another 50,000. An estimated 95 percent of the strip’s factories and workshops, meanwhile, remain closed until today as a direct result of the illegal blockade on the territory.
The pending cement shipment is not a humanitarian aid convoy. Rather, it represents a legitimate commercial transaction, as all the cement in question was paid for in advance by the non-governmental Arab-International Committee for Building Gaza.
“We don’t need charity or handouts,” said Gaza Engineers Syndicate Chairman Kanan Obaid. “We don’t want to be consumers, we want to be producers. But in order to do this, we need raw materials -- especially cement.”
The Gaza Strip’s dire situation was highlighted again this week by a series of Zionist air and artillery attacks throughout the besieged territory. According to Coalition members currently camped out on the border, the barrages were easily heard from Rafah.
“As an Egyptian of conscience, I and other members of the Coalition can’t stand idly by while our besieged Palestinian brothers and sisters in Gaza are being subject to almost daily bombardment,” said Elassy. “We’ve therefore resolved to maintain our presence at the Rafah crossing -- a presence that’s growing with each passing day -- until this illegal embargo is lifted in line with the will of the free people of Egypt.”