EL-ARISH, Egypt (AFP) — Seventeen journalists and media activists took a bus loaded with notebooks and paper to Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with Gaza on Tuesday, demanding journalists be let into the enclave.
The trip’s organisers, the Doha Centre for Media Freedoms, was trying to defy Israeli restrictions on foreign correspondents covering the war in Gaza, despite an Israeli court ruling they should be allowed in.
However the attempt proved unsuccessful, with the delegation retiring to spend the night at a hotel in nearby El-Arish.
“We are being optimistic,” Robert Menard, head of the media rights group, said on the way back from the crossing.
“By letting us in, it will be a chance for the Egyptian government to show they are different.” he said, adding his group would make another attempt to enter Gaza on Wednesday.
Dozens of international news outlets issued a joint call with global press watchdog Reporters Without Borders last week for Israel to let foreign journalists into the Gaza Strip.
“In Jenin, they didn’t let anyone in and the rumours grew bigger and bigger,” he said, referring to a 2002 battle in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in which Israeli air and ground forces fought Palestinian militants.
“In (the 2006) Lebanon war, they let journalists in and you could see the consequences of the war, and the disorganisation of the army. They figured they were losing, whether they opened or closed access,” he said.
Israel’s 18-day-old onslaught in Gaza was launched in response to rockets fired by the Islamist militant group Hamas which controls Gaza.
The offensive has killed at least 930 Palestinians and left 13 Israelis dead.
“There should be someone on the ground to reflect reality,” said Al-Jazeera television cameraman Ashraf Ibrahim Mohammed, one of the reporters in the delegation.