Israeli military stops cycling peace activists from entering Jenin

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The Independent Online

Twenty-three peace activists cycling from London to Jerusalem to get wheels turning in the Middle East peace process will make a second attempt to enter Jenin in the West Bank today, having been denied entry by Israeli officials for the past two days.

The group of mostly British cyclists reached the outskirts of Jenin after travelling from Damascus on Thursday, and were held up by the Israeli military. "When they tried to enter the West Bank, they were detained for eight hours," said Laura Abraham, the Peace Cycle 2006 founder. "No valid reason was given. Spurious explanations were provided by officials, and despite phone calls to the Israeli authorities from the British consulate, the group was told it would not be permitted to cross indefinitely."

Requests for water or the use of toilet facilities are also believed to have been denied. "We were treated so well in every country we passed through in Europe and the Middle East, but now we are being treated like animals," said one of the cyclists.

The Peace Cycle aims to raise awareness of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and to work for peace for every person in the region. Ms Abraham said the cyclists were due at the Freedom Theatre in Jenin yesterday, where they were scheduled to perform a musical piece to the children of the refugee camp, using their bicycles as instruments. The group was then due to visit Balata camp in Nablus tomorrow, and had scheduled meetings with Israeli Palestinian peace groups, as well as the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Riah, and the Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper.

"These are normal people armed with nothing but bicycles and calling for nothing but peace," said Ms Abraham. "All they want to do is meet the people they came to meet."