Monday, July 21, 2014

Gaza Mission Chronicles 1 : Access Denied

We have just returned to Cairo from the Al Arisy border which is just another stop before Rafah. We were ednied not one,twice but thrice in two days! Subhanallah.. I cannot believe its the Egyptian side giving us problems rather than the actual bombings in Gaza.It is the 13th day of war.. the longest in the current millenium. An unresolved conflict getting out of hands all of a sudden.
I could not update earlier because of internet inavailability. I was only thinking of getting a local sim card upon arriving in Gaza itself but it was not our rezq yet. Besides that, i guess it would be inappropriate to tell exactly where and what our plans are.. as in a way intel is at its priority at the moment. The situation in Gaza was gone from bad to worst. Unfortunately till date, no medical teams are allowed to enter GAZA for humanitarian purposes. Masya Allah!
Our mission started as planned on the Saturday morning. We then moved from our base to where the EU delegates were; a group of Clinical Consultants from US, UK and Germany. All of them with Arabic roots. We were led by Dr Esam, a well known Gaza activist and had a good track record of getting medical personnels into Gaza in the past 2 short wars. (2009 and 2012).
On a normal day, it would take us about 2-3 hours to Rafah. With the current checkpoints, it can take up to 7 hours! Because of Aman Palestin and our contacts with the current government, we have managed to gather all documentations required to cross the border. Officially there was no way we can be denied. However, from past experience, the letters can never be a guarantee. We were soon to find out about it. We were very strict about picture taking as a sight of us doing so can cause us to be turned back that very moment. And being part of the mission, i had to refrain myself from taking pics as how i would like to.
The journey made me felt a bit jittery. Dr Esam explained to us about the background and to make du'a all the way praying for our success. It was an emotional journey and the palpitations everytime we were on a checkpoint. Alhamdulillah, the first few checkpoints were smooth sailing. When we arrived at the Suez canal, (we were not on the movable bridge but another crossing using ferry) it can be a turning point. the Egyptian army can decide not to allow us through. We had to wait for about half an hour and we were allowed to cross! Everybody was optimistic about the pass.
 When we arrived at the Al Arisy gate, we saw a lot of busses lining up and loads of people flocking the small terminal road towards Sinai. A demonstration was going on! And giving this as an excuse we were denied entry for the first time. We took it in a positive way as we went to a nearby town for iftar and the night. It was a nervous night when waiting for dawn. At this point, everybody was optimistic with our chances and we were to du'a for success. The GAZA bombing got worse and the casulaties were piling up. Even As Shifa doctors made a press release requesting for our assistance.
We were up early and by 715am we were off to the point where we were stopped yesterday. Again.. within a whisker, the army personnel denied our entry to the dissatisfaction of the team in the bus! We then returned to the village we spent our night and discussed what were the options available. The Egyptian army were giving security excuses for not allowing us to enter. The longer we wait, the more civilians are being massacred! A lively discussion exploded and you would expect nonetheless from the Arab group. 
We made a last try when we heard a truce was being called by the Red Cross to collect dead bodies but unfortunately it was not honoured. Again we were denied and Dr Esam as the group leader made the decision for the whole team to return to Cairo. In a way it was frustrating but this is Ramadhan especialy the last 10 nights of ramadhan. I am sure Allah has his plans on not allowing to enter Gaza at this very moment.
The Gaza mission is getting more dangerous as no guarantee of any security level. Until date, I have not received any news for any plans for entering Gaza tomorrow. We can only hope and pray. It is unfair to let innocent people suffer the consequences of a conflict. It is so sad to see the world not reacting to this as urgently as it should.

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