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La Jollan on peace mission

A La Jollan and naturalized American citizen is the only San Diegan among a 70-plus member delegation from a peace organization set to arrive in the Middle East’s Gaza strip today hoping to deliver humanitarian aid to children in the war-torn region.

Why is Omar Hallak, an expatriate Lebanese, joining international volunteers representing anti-war group Codepink returning to the region he emigrated from five years ago?

“I lived with civil war for 20 years,” said the 31-year-old activist who’s employed with Triple A automotive. “I never knew anything in life other than war. When I had the opportunity to travel outside Lebanon, I saw how kids were raised with no war. I feel bad for the kids who are in war right now. I’m going to try my best to ease life for them.”

Codepink, a nonprofit activist women’s peace organization, was initially formed in 2003 in opposition to the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. The group’s name is a takeoff on U.S. color-coded homeland security alerts.

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“We felt that it was used to justify more violence,” said Codepink co-founder Medea Benjamin of the alerts.

“This (ours) was a different kind of security code: to use diplomacy and international law.”

From small beginnings, the group has grown to an e-mail list of 200,000 and branched out to include conflicts beyond Iraq, most recently Gaza.

Benjamin noted her group is primarily concerned with humanitarianism, not politics.

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“Three of us went after the Israeli invasion at the very end of last year and we were appalled by the devastation we saw,” she said. “The borders to Israel are sealed, which has created tremendous unemployment. We decided this time to focus on children, many of whom were traumatized during the invasion.”