Israel prevented some 100 pro-Palestinian activists from entering the West Bank on Tuesday evening from Jordan at the Allenby Bridge crossing. The demonstrators, from France, Belgium and other European countries, bore an official invitation from the governor of Bethlehem, a senior Fatah official named Abdel-Fattah Hamaiel. The activists were carrying gifts including writing implements for the children of Bethlehem in honor of the beginning of the school year on Monday.

The demonstrators arrived at the Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River in two buses, but when they reached the Israeli side they were not allowed to disembark.

At the crossing, an Israeli official in civilian clothes collected all the passports from the passengers on the first bus and returned them after 10 minutes - all with a "denied entry" stamp.

The second bus was not even allowed to approach the Israeli side of the crossing, and the passports of its passengers were not even collected. The passengers got off the bus and demanded that Israeli officials explain why they were being denied entry, but they were ordered back on the bus; the driver was told to turn around.

Many of the activists had previously participated in such events as the annual Welcome to Palestine "flytilla." Their goal is to stress the Palestinian people's right to host visitors from other countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel as they see fit - the same right accorded to Israeli citizens.

The Jordanian official in charge of the Allenby crossing met with the activists in his office before they attempted to enter Israel, and said he knew of their arrival and of the invitation. But he advised them that Israel might prevent their entry, noting that Jordan played no part in that refusal whatsoever.