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Pro-Palestinian activists participating in fly-in protest detained

Saturday July 09, 2011 08:20:26 PM, Agencies

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Tel Aviv: Israeli police have arrested six pro-Palestinian activists and detained more than 100 other people participating in a fly-in protest at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

The arrested activists, all Israeli citizens, timed their demonstration to coincide with the anticipated arrival of hundreds of others hoping to travel to Palestine in a show of solidarity that some have dubbed the "flytilla," a reference to the flotilla of aid ships that were recently blocked from sailing to Gaza.

Throughout Friday and Saturday, officials at the airport refused entry to more than 100 mostly European activists and said most would be repatriated on the first available flights.

On Saturday, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 120 people had been denied entry and were waiting deportation with one or two days. Others had already been flown out, according to an immigration spokeswoman.

Early on Saturday morning, a delayed Lufthansa flight arrived, and the roughly 20 activists on board were immediately separated from the rest of the passengers by at least 15 border police officers, reported an Al Jazeera journalist who arrived on the flight.


The group was taken for interrogation and passport checks, and the mobile phone network inside the area of the terminal where the plane arrived appeared to be disabled.


Meanwhile, the organisers of the "flytilla," - officially called the "Welcome to Palestine" campaign - said up to 800 activists were expected to fly into Ben Gurion airport in a peaceful mission to visit Palestinian families.

Israeli provided airlines and foreign security agencies with a list of 342 "unwanted people," hoping they would be turned back at European airports.

At least 200 activists were halted in Europe by Friday evening, though a few dozen have reportedly managed to enter Israel so far, but further attempts are expected through Saturday.

Israeli authorities said they largely managed to pre-empt the campaign by foreign activists - most of them from France - who are demonstrating for the right of access to the West Bank.

A statement from the Public Security Ministry quoted regional police chief Benzi Sau as saying a joint operation by police, the foreign ministry and transport officials "prevented the departure of hundreds of activists at their points of departure for Israel".

"Public Security Minister [Yitzhak] Aharonovitch instructed that ... forces continue to deploy so as to be able to deal with incoming flights this afternoon, including the prevention of disturbances, while exercising the necessary sensitivity," it added.










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