Gaza-bound female activists protest at Cairo airport (Photo: Al-Ahram)
A group of foreign activists who were detained at Cairo airport on their way to Gaza have demanded that the cost of their tickets and visas be refunded before they leave the airport, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.
A delegation of 58 activists, mostly French, had arrived in Cairo on Thursday morning from Paris and planned to travel to the blockaded Palestinian enclave through the Egyptian Rafah border crossing.
The Egyptian authorities barred them from entering the country, and the women begun a sit-in.
A security official and a representative from the French embassy subsequently went to the airport to convince the Gaza-bound female activists to leave the country and end their protest.
Airport officials said they will discuss the matter of refunding the activists’ costs.
"Only fifteen of the 58 women have been barred from leaving the airport. Six have left and the others refused to enter the country in solidarity with their banned colleagues," an airport security official told the state news agency MENA earlier on Thursday.
At least eleven women later left on flights to Paris, Brussels and Frankfurt after the French consul asked the French nationals to leave, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.
Egyptian authorities have previously stopped activists from entering Gaza. The Rafah border crossing has been closed since last month while troops destroy smuggling tunnels and wage an offensive against Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula.
Some officials say the activists could have been used to embarrass the interim Egyptian government.
Egyptian authorities are in dispute with the Hamas movement which rules Gaza. They accuse the Islamist group of inciting violence in Egypt.
Egypt has deported 13 international activists this week, including Northern Irish Nobel Laureate and peace activist Mairead Maguire, and held up others who had been planning to visit Gaza.
The co-founder of US-based anti-war group Code Pink, Medea Benjamin, said on Tuesday that Egyptian police violently assaulted her while deporting her from Cairo airport, leaving her with a dislocated shoulder.
Egyptian officials deny Benjamin was assaulted, saying she refused to leave despite being told the Rafah border was closed because of military operations in the area.
The delegation of pro-Palestinian activists was supposed to be led by Djamila Bouhired, an icon of the Algerian war of independence from France, but it is unclear if she arrived in Egypt.