This email came today from Dr. Bill Dienst, who stayed in Gaza when the boats left to go back to Cypress (see Free Gaza boat flotilla information below or on their web site: www.freegaza.org). The 9 who stayed in Gaza are working to help more Gazans leave for medical and other reasons, to end the virtual imprisonment of Gazan citizens in their own country. This is news you won't likely see in the U.S. media - let me know if you do!
Bill is a Family and Emergency Room physician for Omak, a town in rural Washington in the northwestern United States. In 1985, after an intensive summer course in Arabic, Bill took an extra year of medical school, and spent a half year in Egypt, the West Bank and Gaza volunteering with various Palestinian healthcare organizations, initially with the Palestine Red Crescent Society headquartered in Egypt. He has been to Palestine on trips sponsored by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, by Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility to Israel/Palestine and with the Palestine Medical Relief Society. Here is his report:
Good Morning from Gaza City,
The boats of SS Liberty and SS Free Gaza arrived safely in Larnaca Cyprus last night with some of the original passengers and 9 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip aboard.
About 9 of our original international passengers stayed on in Gaza to do media and other work.
Yesterday, British Journalist Lauren Booth and I attempted to exit via Eretz Crossing into Israel, accompanied by sick Palestinians needing specialty care not available in Gaza.
The Israeli border guards threatened to shoot us, but we advanced slowly with our arms raised holding our passports up high; We advanced right through the tunnel right up to the iron gate, but the Israelis would not open it. The US and British Embassy's gave us the Royal run around and would not help us.
So after a visit to Beit Hanoun to see the Al Athamna Family, who are still in a state of grief from the massacre of 19 members of their family by Israeli mortar shells 2 years ago, we headed back to Gaza City. So now we are waiting for the Egyptian authorities to let us out of Gaza through Rafah. They are under pressure from Israel to keep us trapped in here. Now I am getting a better appreciation of what it means to be a Palestinian from Gaza.
I will keep you posted as best I can. It has been a grueling, but very worthwhile month.
Dr. Bill Dienst, Gaza