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Egypt: passengers of 'Peace Boat' call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza

The ship is docked at the port of Port Said at the Mediterranean terminus of the Suez Canal in northeastern Egypt on November 8, 2023.   -  
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Peace activists travelling the world on a cruise ship dubbed the "Peace Boat" docked at Port Said, ern Egypt, on Wednesday (Nov. 09) to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The ship, also known as "Pacific World", is a 77,000-ton passenger ship owned by Japan-based luxury cruise operator and non-governmental organisation Peace Boat.

A giant banner with the words "Stop Killing Gaza" hung from the deck of the ship as the activists continued to chant "Free Gaza" and "Save Gaza".

"The "Peace Boat" is trying to claim that what is happening right now in Gaza is clearly against the international law, so we clearly want to keep the message that we stand with the people who are affected, we stand with the people who are affected, especially the children," Peace Boat staff Anna Gotten said.

Thousands of Palestinians are fleeing south from Gaza City on foot, in some cases carrying nothing but the clothes on their back.

The Israeli army has told Palestinians in the north, where it is battling Hamas militants, to move south.

With supplies of food, water fuel and electricity cut, surviving has become a challenge for most Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

They have also suffered telecommunications blackouts.

Israel's PM vowed to destroy Hamas after the militant group carried the deadliest attack in the country's history on October 7. The militant killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and abducted some 200 others including children.

The Israeli military response in Gaza has included airstrikes and a ground offensive.

For a month, Palestinians have been living under relentless bombardment by the Israleli military which has targeted “hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches, and UN facilities,” according to the United Nations Secretary-General.

The airstrikes have killed over 10,300 Palestinians — two-thirds of them women and minors. 

More than 2,300 are believed to be buried from strikes that reduced entire city blocks to rubble.

No ceasefire

The "Peace Boat" ship previously visited Turkey and Greece with the same plea before its final stop in Port Said, Egypt.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an interview with U.S.' ABC News on November 6, ruled out any widespread cease-fire, but suggested an openness to “little pauses” — though it was not clear whether some kind of small stoppage had been agreed to or whether the U.S. was satisfied with the scope of the Israeli commitment.

This comes after more than a week of public pressure from the U.S. for “humanitarian pauses” in Gaza.

Around 70% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, and many of them are crowded into schools-turned-shelters run by the United Nations with no guarantee of safety.

Hamas has accused the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) of "colluding" with Israel in the "forced displacement" of residents of Gaza.

"UNRWA and its officials bear responsibility for this humanitarian catastrophe, in particular the residents of the Gaza (City) area and north of it" who are following Israeli military orders to flee south, said Salama Maruf, head of the Hamas media bureau.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on Israel not to reoccupy Gaza once its war with Hamas ends.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would take "overall security responsibility" for the territory following the war.

Durable peace?

Key elements for a durable peace included "no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza... no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism... no reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends", Blinken said after a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Japan.

He added that any postwar governing plan for Gaza “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority”.

In recent years, Israel has made peace deals with Arab countries. Many of them backed other Arab countries that waged war against Israel shortly after its creation. At the time; they opposed the United Nations' partition of Palestine that preceded Israel's proclamation of what is known as the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.

Fast forward to more recent times, Israel recently inked deals with signatories who were once at odds with it. Doing so, it did not have to make concessions in its conflict with the Palestinians. 

The U.S. was even trying to broker a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia in past few months.

Hamas leaders say an Israeli crackdown on militants in the West Bank, continued construction of settlements — which the international community and law considers to be illegal — thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails, and its ongoing blockade of Gaza pushed it to attack.

Displacement has been a major theme of Palestinian history. In the 1948 war around Israel’s creation, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from what is now Israel. Palestinians refer to the event as the Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe.”

After fighting stopped, Israel refused to allow refugees to return to their homes. 

In the 1967 Mideast war, when Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 300,000 more Palestinians fled, mostly into Jordan.

The refugees and their descendants now number nearly 6 million, most living in camps and communities in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The diaspora has spread further, with many refugees building lives in Gulf Arab countries, the U.S.A, Canada, Egypt among many countries.

Since then, Israel has rejected Palestinian demands for a return of refugees as part of a peace deal, arguing that it would threaten the country’s Jewish majority.

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