21 July 2009
A totnes peace activist who spent a year in Gaza has returned to the UK.
Jenny Linnell flew back from the Middle East in London at the weekend following weeks of being stuck at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
The pro-Palestinian human rights charity worker had been prevented from leaving the Gaza Strip through Egypt after she was identified as one of the peace activists from Europe who came into Gaza on the Free Gaza boat last year.
Ms Linnell, a former vegan chef at The Willow restaurant in Totnes, moved to Gaza last August as part of the Free Gaza Movement and International Solidarity Movement to help Palestinians and document the hardship of their daily lives.
Ms Linnell was in Gaza in January when the Israeli army, responding to rocket attacks from Hamas, carried out a three-week bombardment of the Palestinian enclave.
Last month, the 33-year-old tried to return to Britain, but she says she was unable to leave Gaza because neither Israel nor Egypt would let her out through their borders.
The humanitarian aid worker and three fellow UK citizens, including two men and a woman, tried to cross the border several times, but were turned away despite having the necessary official documents from the British Embassy in Cairo, the Palestinian government and the Egyptians.
At the time she said she had been despairing and was feeling like a prisoner at the border crossing and was not being let out.
It is understood she was finally allowed to go to Egypt so she could move on to Jordan.
Ms Linnell went to Syria then Turkey before catching a plane back to Heathrow on Saturday.
One of Ms Linnell’s friends from Totnes, Richard Taylor said: “She’s back in the UK and we are all very relieved that she is safe and sound. She travelled overland after she received a call from the British consulate in Cairo telling her if she went straight to the border now she’d be able to go across.
“We think it happened because George Galloway was out there delivering some humanitarian aid to Gaza.
“It was such a worry to have a close friend on the front line.
“She’s not due back down to Devon for a while because she’s staying with her family.
“But she has been overwhelmed with the support she received here. We’re over the moon.”
Fellow friend and humanitarian buddy Liz Snook added: “It seems Jenny didn’t actually see Galloway who was due to return to the UK a day early.
“But she was let out which is what counts. A big thank you to every one who put pressure on the Foreign office, the Egyptian Embassy and MP and MEPs. It seems to have worked. I’m so pleased she’s back.”
Ms Linnell who is understood to be staying with her parents in Leicester, was not available for comment.