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International Peace Mission receives a frosty reception from Israel

After a full month of gruelling cycling, the Peace Cycle finally arrived in the West Bank tonight, September 6th. The cyclists left Damascus 3 days ago and toured the Palestinian refugee camps in the south of Syria before entering Jordan. In both Middle East countries, as in Europe, the group enjoyed courteous treatment and a warm welcome.

The climate changed dramatically, however, once they reached the border between Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian West Bank.

The cyclists arrived at the Jordanian side of the “Allenby Bridge” crossing point at 11.30 this morning local time. On the Palestinian side of the border, their coach and tour guide waited for them…and waited. The cyclists, 21 of them British, two Austrian and one Palestinian, were held at the border by the Israeli authorities and were given no information or explanation, although they were eventually given a sandwich.

Some of the Peace Cycle team as they set off from London

The Palestinian man among the group was taken away and questioned for almost 3 hours before he was allowed to enter the West Bank, where he lives with his family in a village near Ramallah. He had taken part in the Peace Cycle so that he could “tell the world about life under occupation” in his country.

At 6pm the border crossing officially closed for the night, with the remaining group of cyclists still being held in no man’s land between Jordan and Palestine, by a frustrated Israeli border staff who admitted they “just wanted to go home”. Eventually, eight hours later, and after frantic ‘phone calls between the Peace Cycle’s London office and the British Consulate in Jerusalem, the cyclists were allowed through to the Palestinian side of the border. Tired and hungry, they were relieved to finally board their coach and look forward to a meal in El Fa’raa in the north of the West Bank, where the villagers had planned a welcome dinner for them.

However, their relief was to be short lived when they encountered first hand experience of military occupation, just outside the village of El Fa’raa. As their hosts awaited them, the cyclists’ coach was stopped at an illegal Israeli checkpoint just minutes away and the group was told it could not proceed. Spurious explanations were given by the soldiers on duty, and despite ‘phone calls to the Israeli authorities from the British Consulate and an Israeli Knesset (Parliament) member, the peace group was held for 3 hours and then told they would not be permitted to cross the checkpoint, indefinitely.

The group had no choice but to divert to Jerusalem where they will spend the night before attempting to restart their tour of the West Bank tomorrow morning.

Whatever the reason behind today’s appalling treatment of the men and women of the Peace Cycle mission, they are more determined than ever to work for an end to the occupation of Palestine as being the only way to a lasting peace for all people of the Middle East.

For more information, contact Laura Abraham, founder of the Peace Cycle, on +44-(0)-794-1056616.

If you would like to arrange phone interviews with the cyclists at any point please contact TPC Press Officer Claire Ranyard (07801 263322) or Laura Abraham the founder of the Peace Cycle (07941056616) .

For more information visit their website or the following Indymedia UK stories: