Received by e-mail
Sent: Saturday, August 30, 2008 12:10:26 AM
Subject: The journey home
We arrived safely last night. The trip home was much less eventful than the trip to Gaza and much less emotional. On board my boat, the FREE GAZA, was a family of Palestinians who had not been let out of the concentration camp called “Gaza” for five years. The mother had given birth to her youngest son four years ago, and the family, living in Cyprus, had not seen him. The joy on the faces of Hana’s family was worth waiting the extra half day to leave. We had to make sure that the Cypriot authorities would allow them in.
On board the LIBERTY was a 10-year-old boy whose leg had been shot off by the Israeli military. He was from Khan Younis. The story (and I haven’t been able to verify it it yet) is that he was standing with his friend as an Israeli tank invaded his town. A sniper shot him through one leg, then when he stood to run, the sniper shot him through the other one, causing huge damage to the leg. It was amputated at the hip. Again, we had to wait for Cypriot authorities to give permission for him to transit to another country.
On the first page of the Cyprus Mail is a photo of the boy with Osama, one of our organizers. Even though we came in at 9 pm, the media was all over the quay waiting for us. Although we didn’t get seasick this time, many of us, because we are so exhausted, are feeling the land effects today, swaying as we try to walk down the streets.
It has been a week of over-riding joy, sadness at the condition of so many sick and wounded Palestinians, hope for the future, and disbelief that we not only arrived safely but left safely. As we pulled out of Gaza yesterday, seven Israeli naval vessels surrounded the Palestinian fishermen who joyfully escorted us six miles out. The last view we had of Gaza was of the seven gunboats surrounding the fishermen. We’ve heard from our Israeli sources that they arrested four of them.
As usual, the Palestinians will face the wrath of the Israeli military, because they had egg on their faces and will take it out on the weakest.
We meet this morning to plan the second trip.
The boats of SS Liberty and SS Free Gaza arrived safely in LarnacaCyprus last night with some of the original passengers and 9Palestinians 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 runaround 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.
Bill Dienst, MD
Free Gaza Movement
357 99 08 17 67