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Blair sister-in-law denied land exit from Gaza
Booth, who was on activist ship that broke naval blockade, denied entry into both Israel and Egypt

Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair's sister-in-law, who arrived in Gaza with a boatload of activists protesting an Israeli blockade, said on Tuesday she was stuck there because both Israel and Egypt had denied her entry.

 

Lauren Booth, sister of the former British prime minister's wife Cherie, revealed her predicament as Blair visited the region to further Western-backed efforts to achieve a limited Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

 

Booth was one of 44 foreign "Free Gaza" activists who set sail from Cyprus, docking in Gaza last month, and was one of 10 who remained when the others sailed back to Cyprus on Friday.  

 

Israel allowed the activists to dock in Gaza on Aug. 23 despite its blockade of the coastal territory since Hamas Islamists, who oppose Israel's existence, seized control last year.

 

Booth said she has tried unsuccessfully in the past few days to leave through Gaza's land crossings with Israel and Egypt. "I tried through the proper channels, through the United Kingdom's embassy, but I was told I was not allowed to come through," she said after trying in vain to enter Israel.

 

An Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman, Peter Lerner, confirmed Israel had denied Booth entry, saying there was a policy of refusing entry to anyone from Gaza who did not get there via Israel.

 

"There is no possibility to let in those people who entered by the sea. They cannot enter Israel," Lerner said.

 

Egypt would not let Booth through its Rafah terminal with Gaza on Saturday. She was turned away along with two other activists, Booth said.  "We were all turned back by the Egyptians," she said, adding that she had received no explanation but had "heard through contacts" that Egypt was under pressure from Israel to do so. 

 

Booth said diplomatic efforts were still being made to permit her to leave. "Thanks to Israel for letting us feel a real taste of Gazan life," she added.

 

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