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Gaza Freedom Marchers: 38 detained by Egypt

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London - Ma'an - Egyptian security forces detained 38 participants of the Gaza Freedom March from a hotel in Al-Arish on Sunday at noon, according to a statement issued by the event's organizers.

"Egyptian security forces detained a group of 30 internationals in their hotel in Al-Arish and another group of eight at the bus station. They also broke up a memorial action commemorating the Cast Lead massacre at the Kasr An-Nil Bridge," the statement asserted.

The Freedom March plans to bring more than 1,300 international protesters to Gaza this week to denounce the blockade of the Palestinian territory.

The detainees include Spanish, French, British, American and Japanese nationals. Another group of eight people, including American, British, Spanish, Japanese and Greek citizens, were detained at Al-Arish bus station in the afternoon of 27 December, the organizers said.

"The Egyptian security forces eventually yielded, letting most of the marchers leave the hotel, but did not permit them to leave the town. When two younger delegates, a French and Japanese woman, attempted to leave Al-Arish, the Egyptian authorities stopped their taxi and unloaded their luggage," it stated.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, Egyptian security police broke up a commemoration ceremony marking the anniversary of the Israeli invasion of Gaza organized by the Gaza Freedom March at the Kasr An-Nil Bridge.

"As a nonviolent way of commemorating the more than 1,300 Palestinians killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza that began a year ago on December 27, 2008, Gaza Freedom Marchers tied hundreds of strings with notes, poems, art and the names of those killed to the bridge," the group said.

“We’re saddened that the Egyptian authorities have blocked our participants’ freedom of movement and interfered with a peaceful commemoration of the dead,” said Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, one of the March’s organizers.

Benjamin added that the Gaza Freedom March participants are continuing to urge the Egyptian government to allow them to proceed to Gaza.

They visited the Arab League asking for support, various foreign embassies and the Presidential Palace to deliver an appeal to President Mubarak. They are calling their supporters around the world to contact Egyptian embassies and urge them to free the marchers and allow them to proceed to Gaza, the statement concluded.