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Gaza hunger strikes: 'Gorgeous' George, a Holocaust granny, and angry Frenchmen

British politician George Galloway, American Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, and dozens of protesters in Cairo started hunger strikes this week to protest the fact that Egypt is blocking them from visiting Gaza to mark the anniversary of last year's war.

By Matthew ClarkStaff editor / December 29, 2009

Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, center, and activists of "Gaza Freedom Marchers" shout slogans in support of the people of Gaza during a protest in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, to mark the one-year anniversary of the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Amr Nabil/AP

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What do British politician George Galloway, American Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, and dozens of weary protesters in Cairo have in common?

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They all want entree to the Gaza Strip – and they're slowly starving themselves to get to the tiny coastal enclave. They've all started hunger strikes this week to protest the fact that Egypt and other regional countries are blocking them from visiting Gaza to denounce Israel's alleged war crimes during the 22-day Gaza war that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and just 13 Israelis last year.

''I've never done this before. I don't know how my body will react, but I'll do whatever it takes,'' said Ms. Epstein, an 85-year-old American activist who has joined other grandmothers for the hunger strike.

Egypt is blocking Epstein and some 1,300 protesters from entering Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. The protesters – representing scores of activist groups, such as the antiwar women's group Code Pink, from dozens of countries – had planned.to take part in a "Gaza Freedom March" to mark the first anniversary of the Gaza War.

That now looks increasingly unlikely. But Code Pink co-founder and march leader Madea Benjamin – who says that she and 50 other US nationals were “beaten up” by Egyptian police when they went to the US Embassy in Cairo to attend a previously scheduled meeting with embassy staff on Tuesday morning – says the activists will organize another protest, reports the Monitor.

Also unlikely is Mr. Galloway's bid to get his 450-strong "Viva Palestina" aid convoy to Gaza. Those protesters left for Syria Monday after being stuck in Jordan for four days following attempts to circumvent Egyptian orders not to try to cross into Gaza. Galloway – the fiery, flamboyant Scot also known as "Gorgeous George" – was hailed as a hero by a senior Hamas official during a similar aid caravan he led successfully into Gaza. He will no doubt be hailed as such again should he succeed this time.

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