Blair's sister-in-law stranded in Gaza

Booth says Israel, Egypt blocking her exit by land after she sailed in with "siege-breaking" boats.

Lauren Booth 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Lauren Booth 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday that Israel and Egypt have prevented her from leaving the Gaza Strip, more than a week after she entered the territory in defiance of the blockade. Lauren Booth said she has been trying to leave Gaza since Friday, but was turned away at Israeli and Egyptian border crossings. Booth was among 46 pro-Palestinian international activists with the Free Gaza Movement who sailed into Gaza waters on August 23 to draw attention to Israel's blockade, which has prevented the area's 1.4 million Palestinians from traveling abroad and crippled the local economy. Most of the protesters left Gaza on the same boats last Thursday and sailed to Cyprus, but Booth and several other activists chose to remain behind to do human rights work. Booth said she has turned to British diplomats in the region to get her out of Gaza. "High- level diplomatic maneuvering is going on when none should be needed," she said. She said she has not spoken to Blair, who now serves as the international community's Mideast peace envoy. Neither Blair's office nor the British Embassy in Tel Aviv returned calls seeking comment. Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza's borders after Hamas violently seized power in June 2007. The sanctions have halted the movement of virtually all goods and people across Gaza's border. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the government was still weighing whether to let her into Israel, but noted that Israel, like any country, has the right to decide who enters its territory. "This is something she should have thought about before entering Gaza," he said. "Nothing was coordinated with Israel." Egyptian officials were not immediately available for comment. Meanwhile, Blair met with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. At the meeting, Mofaz told Blair that multi-channel negotiations with the Palestinians were preventing progress. Mofaz added that negotiating over the major issues at hand was pointless and unrealistic, as it was necessary to build the Palestinian state's administrative-economic infrastructure before dealing with the more difficult problems. Mofaz reportedly told Blair he would personally lead the negotiations with the Palestinians if he were elected as head of Kadima.