News | Sunday, 20 September 2009

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Karl Schembri enters Gaza

MaltaToday journalist Karl Schembri has finally entered the Gaza strip after months of reporting from Ramallah, in the West Bank.
Schembri, who also works for the Ramattan News Agency, left Cairo, Egypt on Thursday morning and crossed the Sinai desert to the seaside village of El Arish just outside Rafah, where there is the Egyptian border with Gaza.
He was there last July, and previously in January during the war, to travel to cross the border into Egypt, which was left indefinitely closed,
Schembri has teamed up with American organisation Code Pink.
“A multitude of checkpoints along the way manned by the so-called ‘tourist police’ slowed down our pace. Even though we warned our driver to tell the police we were tourists on a trip to the El Arish seaside resort, he did at one point let slip that we were heading to Rafah, which meant we were held for a long time while the armed police made phone calls, checked our passports, asked us to write down what our jobs were and lots of other questions,” Schembri writes (see pages 46-47).
“The police here do not like it when you tell them you’re heading to Gaza, and there is no other reason to travel to Rafah but to enter Gaza. In many ways, the Egyptians are doing the dirty work for the Israelis by trying to dissuade visitors from reaching the strip,” Schembri said.
“Luckily we convinced the police we were just tourists who ‘want to see the Mediterranean’, as one American put it.”

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