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      Tony Blair's Sister-in-Law Stuck in Gaza

      A group of foreign activists who stayed after landing their boats on the Gaza shoreline are stuck there, including Tony Blair's sister-in-law.
      By Hana Levi Julian
      First Publish: 9/3/2008, 10:03 AM

      Lauren Booth is stuck in Gaza.

      Booth, sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister and current Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair, cannot leave Gaza after having sailed to the coast with 'Free Gaza' activists who symbolically broke Israel's sovereignty over Gaza waters.

      The British activist was one of the most prominent foreign nationals aboard the two boats that sailed from Cyprus last month and enhanced the movement’s publicity stunt aimed at opening Gaza’s seaways to international traffic without Israeli supervision against terrorist activities.

      Israel’s Navy patrols the coastal waters to ensure that terrorists are unable to smuggle weapons, explosives and operatives in and out of the region. Hamas and other terrorist groups have used dinghies and rubber barrels on the open seas for such purposes, report intelligence officials.

      Booth and 10 other activists remained in Gaza when Israeli authorities allowed the boats to arrive August 23, including the only Jew in the group. An Israeli citizen, Professor Jeff Halper was briefly detained by Sderot police when he crossed back into pre-1967 Israel after disembarking from the boats, which left the region on Friday. 

      Blair’s sister-in-law, however, was unable to leave because she does not have a visa to enter pre-1967 Israel from the region. According to a release posted by Booth on the “Free Gaza” movement’s website, she and three other foreign nationals from the US, Ireland and Australia attempted to exit Gaza on August 29 via the Erez Crossing without the proper documents.

      Palestinian Authority Arabs regularly pass through the Erez Crossing each week for medical treatment in pre-1967 Israel, according to Defense Ministry spokesman Peter Lerner, who has repeatedly noted in the past that all have security clearance and proper documentation.

      However, said Lerner on Tuesday, “there is no possibility to let in those people who entered by sea. They cannot enter Israel.”

      The group also tried to exit via the Rafiah Crossing. However, no one had a visa to exit Gaza, which is not a sovereign nation, or a visa for entry to Egypt.

      According to Booth’s posting, “among the internationals currently stranded in Gaza” are Irish activist and former Hawaiian legislator Kenneth O’Keefe and Dr. William Dienst, an American physician. The fourth activist was not named.

      Booth ended her release with the assertion that “Diplomatic channels are trying to negotiate the exit of the human rights workers who wish, like Palestinians, to exercise their human rights under Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state and (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

      The problem is that Gaza, which is under the control of the Hamas terrorist organization, is not a country.