29 Dec 2009

Gaza supporters protest Egypt's blocking of march

10:25 pm on 29 December 2009

Hundreds of people trying to march into Gaza a year after the start of the devastating Israeli offensive are on hunger strike after Egypt blocked them from crossing the border.

A group who got as far as the Sinai port of El Arish have been detained by the Egyptian police, the BBC reports.

A separate convoy of vans delivering medical supplies is stuck in the Jordanian port town of Aqaba.

At least 38 people of various nationalities were picked up by Egyptian security services in El Arish and held in their hotel rooms, AFP news agency reports.

Hundreds of activists are camped outside the United Nations mission in Cairo in an attempt to get the UN to pressure the Egyptians to let them cross the border with the Gaza Strip.

One of the hunger strikers is 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, from the United States.

"I've never done this before, I don't know how my body will react, but I'll do whatever it takes," she told AFP.

Activists from 42 countries signed up to join what they call the Gaza freedom march to mark the anniversary of the Israeli military incursion into the region last year, in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died.

Israeli troops kill six Palestinians

Meanwhile Israeli troops have killed six Palestinians - three in the Gaza Strip and three in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli military said three Palestinians suspected of trying to infiltrate from Gaza were killed in an air strike near the Erez crossing.

It's the largest number of deaths in a day since the end of Israeli's incursion into Gaza more than year ago.

Israeli forces also say they killed three men suspected of killing a Jewish settler in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

Palestinian sources in Nablus say two of those killed were from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the militant faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party.

The faction was one of two groups that said they'd killed the settler, a father of seven, two days ago.