Left-wingers rally for Gaza and Sderot

Over 1,000 converge on Erez crossing to protest blockade of the Strip as well as rocket attacks.

gaza rafah border 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza rafah border 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
More than 1,000 people took part in a demonstration organized by a coalition of left-wing groups at the Erez border crossing on Saturday, in solidarity with Gazans and Sderot residents, under the slogan: "Stop the siege on Gaza: A demonstration for Gaza and for Sderot." A convoy of about 100 cars and 25 buses brought protesters to the crossing with northern Gaza in the late morning; a large number of soldiers and police were present, but the demonstration proceeded without incident. A demonstration under the same slogan was being held by Gazans inside the Strip. Speaking by phone to the demonstrators on the Israeli side, Dr. Iyad al-Sarraj, head of the Palestinian Community Mental Health Program, said: "We are joining hands today in the pursuit of peace, justice and security for all - security for Palestine, security for Israel, security for Gaza and security for Sderot." The last speaker at the rally was 17-year-old Shir Shudzik, from Sderot. Standing on top of a truck loaded with supplies and speaking through a megaphone, she said: "I've lived for the last seven years under the threat of the Kassams. It's exhausting. Every time I go to a train station or to a supermarket, and I hear the PA system switching on, I jump, because it sounds like the beginning of the rocket alarm. But I know I'm not alone in this situation, that people are suffering even worse on the other side." "I don't trust neither my government nor Hamas to bring peace. But the fact that we are here together, Arabs and Jews, might be a beginning and it brings me hope." While the organizers originally intended to hold the two demonstrations side by side on both sides of the security fence, this was prohibited by the army due to security considerations. The Israeli convoy carried food purchased by participants, which they intend to send to Gaza in the coming days in coordination with authorities. "Civilians on both sides are victims of the conflict and we deplore any action against [them]," said Adam Keller, one of the organizers. "We call for an immediate cease-fire between Hamas and the Israeli government, which was proposed by Hamas several times, and we call for an immediate end to Israeli incursions and Palestinian shootings." "I believe in nonviolence. I have always publicly opposed suicide bombings and rocket fire," Sarraj told The Jerusalem Post. "I believe that the people of Gaza could stop the rocket fire by popular pressure, but the siege is making the militants much more popular, because we are all thrown together as victims." Discussing Sderot residents, Sarraj said: "Every drop of blood on either side is sacred. Jewish blood is the same as Arab blood. I hope that very quickly people on both sides will be allowed to live in peace." On Friday, thousands of people across the Middle East held protests in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and called for an end to the siege. Around 2,000 Egyptians protested outside the Cairo International Book Fair, carrying banners that read: "Save Gaza" and "Free, despite the siege." Many of the demonstrators - mostly from Egypt's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood - wore black and white Palestinian kaffiyehs and waved Korans. In Jordan, some 3,000 people took to the streets after noon prayers to support the Palestinians, calling for solidarity with Hamas and more suicide attacks against Israel. The protest was organized by the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, and demonstrators carried banners reading "Hamas protects our Gaza" and "Gaza is the land of the free people despite the tyranny and the blockade." In Bahrain, several hundred men and women held protests in support of Gazans. The demonstrators chanted slogans against the US and Israel while waving Palestinian flags. One of the protests occurred less than a kilometer from the headquarters of the US Navy's 5th Fleet in the capital of Manama.