Two British academics have arrived in Gaza to collect Palestinian students who would otherwise be unable to take up university places abroad.
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead and Research Fellow Mike Cusham went by boat from Cyprus to collect the 16 students, some of whom have scholarships at colleges in Europe and North America.
They docked on Tuesday afternoon and hope to leave within the next few days.
Mr Cusham, of the London School of Economics, said: “We hope to bring out a few students who have scholarships and to highlight the problems faced by the other 700 who we can’t fit on the boat.”
But the trip organised by Free Gaza, an organisation that aims to end the Gaza siege, has been criticised as a “publicity stunt” by the director of the Academic Friends of Israel, Ronnie Fraser.
Mr Fraser said: “They are depending on the Jewish community to raise the profile of this event if we protest too much. If the Jewish community ignores it and the Israeli authorities ignore it as best they can it won’t achieve the publicity they wish.”
Mr Cusham and Prof Rosenhead are members of the British committee for the Universities of Palestine that advocates boycotting Israeli academic institutions while the siege continues.
Dr Sue Blackwell, a committee member of BRICAP, said: “It’s disgraceful that we have to go such lengths to get the students out of Gaza. These are young people who are not terrorists, they are simply civilians who are trying to leave Gaza in order to study and have a future.”