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Peace coalition appeals for Palestinians stranded at Rafah Crossing

 Gush Shalom, the Israeli peace coalition, has sent a strong protest to Prime Minister Olmert and Defence Minister Barak, and a letter to the European Union, warning about the extreme suffering of about 6,000 Palestinians stuck on the Egyptian side of the closed Rafah Border crossing, unable to return to their homes. The Rafah Border crossing has been closed ever since the eruption of confrontations between the Palestinian militias in Gaza, which culminated with the Hamas takeover. Some 6,000 residents who found themselves at the time on the Egyptian side - among them a considerable number returning from medical treatment at Egyptian hospitals - have been stranded ever since: waiting, sleeping, and living in the streets under the hot sun, unable to wash, and with no idea how much longer they will have to wait. Most of them have run out of money. And since last week the services of Western Union and DHL in the Gaza Strip were discontinued under Israeli and American pressure, making it impossible for families to send money to their trapped relatives. On Sunday, Taghreed Abeaed, a 31 years old Palestinian woman, mother of five children, died while waiting in the very bad conditions at Rafah Crossing. Even her body is not allowed to be brought back into the Gaza Strip. "These stranded Gaza Strip residents have no part in the internecine conflict between Fatah and Hamas; They are innocent civilians caught cruelly in an unpredictable trap, and it is your duty to provide them the elementary right of going home" wrote Gush Shalom to the Israeli PM and Defence Minister. The organisation has also approached EU representatives in Gaza. Since 2005, the armed forces of Israel are not in direct control of the Rafah Border Crossing. Its opening is made conditional upon the presence of European monitors. In practice however it is the Defence Minster of Israel who decides whether or not there will be European monitors at Rafah, and thus whether the crossing will be open or closed. Because the EU has complied with the wishes of the Israeli government and not sent monitors, the border crossing remains closed. Gush Shalom said: "the EU has abdicated its own often proclaimed responsibility to promote the welfare and peaceful future of all peoples in the Middle East. It calls on the EU to exert its influence on the reopening of the Rafah Crossing to prevent more suffering of innocent people. Source: Gush Shalom