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Into Gaza

PUBLISHED: January 17, 2009

Rumors turned out to be true: Egypt defied Israel today and allowed more than fifty foreign journalists into Gaza through the Rafah gate. I was one of them.

A handful of bold and extremely well organized reporters had made it in earlier using letters of “no objection” from their respective embassies. The American Embassy flatly refused to write any such letter, citing legal issues, and apparently worried about bucking the Israeli Government Press Office, which has managed to keep the Erez gate closed to all but a few sterilized press junkets.

The State Department finally met reporters halfway by allowing us to write our own affidavits, stating that we expect no help from Consular Affairs while inside Gaza, which the Consul then signed and notarized.

The American Embassy didn’t quite meet us halfway–the process had to be handled in person, and I had to make the ten hour trip from Rafah to Cairo and back to get it done. All of the other embassies sent faxes. The good news is that the affidavits got us across the border without any problem.

Why did it take three weeks for the Egyptian government to decide to let us in? My theory is that last Sunday’s bombing on the border, which injured four Egyptians, pushed Mubarak into a precarious position. He has been forced to act, I think, by recent events that show the Arab world that Israel thinks it can walk all over him. Hence the ambulances this week–and maybe the journalists too.

Whatever the reason, we’re in. And we’ll have more soon from here inside Gaza.

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