Saturday, February 09, 2008

Irish woman, daughter stuck in Gaza after Egypt seals border

Treasa Ni Cheannabhain, 56, center left, an Irish citizen, and her daughter Naisrin el-Safty, center right

By The Associated Press

An Irish woman and her daughter who sneaked into Gaza across a breached border were stuck in the territory Wednesday, unable to cross back into Egypt.

The pair had distributed $11,270 among needy Gazans and wanted to return to Egypt late Tuesday, but they were stopped by Egyptian border guards.

Treasa Ni Cheannabhain, 56, said she entered Gaza on Saturday, more than a week after Hamas militants knocked down the border wall separating Gaza and Egypt. As hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flooded into Egypt, Cheannabhain used the opportunity to sneak into Gaza with her 19-year-old daughter to distribute money to Gazans.

Cheannabhain is married to an Egyptian physician, and her daughter, Naisrin el-Safty, is an Egyptian national, she said. "I admitted I entered illegally, but we want to come back in legally," Cheannabhain said in a telephone interview from the Gazan border town of Rafah.

Egyptian guards had resealed the border Sunday, ending a 12-day breach. Cheannabhain said she had not hear of warnings that the crossing would close.

Ireland's Foreign Ministry is trying to help, a spokesman said, but added that only Egypt can authorize the pair's return. "The Egyptian authorities apparently are refusing to let her cross back over to Egypt," said the spokesman on customary condition of anonymity.


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