Israel blocks entry to first pro-Palestinian 'fly-in' activists; hundreds more expected
650 policemen stationed at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv in anticipation of hundreds of activists due to arrive as part of 'Welcome to Palestine' event.
About 30 pro-Palestinian activists were held by security forces at Ben-Gurion Airport after arriving on a flight from Paris on Sunday, ahead of what Israel Police estimates will be hundreds of activists and protesters due to arrive as part of the "Welcome to Palestine" fly-in protest.
All in all, 30 activists were detained by security forces at Ben-Gurion Airport, with 27 still in questioning, after three were allowed entry into Israel.
Three of those detained were subsequently released and allowed entry into the country, while the fourth remained in questioning.
Speaking to reporters, the commander of the forces deployed at the airport Bentzi Sau said that, "as of right now, most of the activists were kept in their home countries, according to the airlines' decision."
"In the last hour we detected about 20 activists who have been barred entry and are in questioning. At first, we estimated that about 1,200 activists will arrive, but that number has been reduced significantly as a result of several actions," Sau added.
The top Israel Police officer said that those who do not accept the Interior Ministry's offer to return to their country of origin will be transferred to the Israel Prison Services for processing," adding that "most of the flights suspected of carrying activists are due to land between 2 and 5 P.M."
650 policemen were stationed at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv ahead in preparation for the mass event.
The activists were planning to arrive in Israel to participate in a protest against West Bank settlement construction that was scheduled to take place on Sunday. Last July, a similar “fly-in” took place, with more than 300 international activists arriving in Israel. Of those activists, 120 were detained.
On Saturday, the spokesman for the "Welcome to Palestine" protest told Haaretz that more than 60 percent of the 1,500 pro-Palestinian activists due to arrive in Israel on Sunday have received notifications from airlines that their flights were canceled.
Among the airlines that notified the activists of flight cancelations were Lufthansa, Air France and Easyjet, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem-based spokesman for the protest said, adding that the activists are threatening to take legal action against the airlines.
"Israel passed lists of hundreds of activists to companies, along with a letter in which it claimed that they were coming to carry out a provocation and disturb the peace, and this is just not true. It is very unfortunate that these companies bowed to Israeli pressure," said Qumsiyeh, who added that he has no doubt that some of the activists and Palestinian organizations - including his own - will pursue legal action against the companies.
According to the spokesman, hundreds of activists will manage to board flights to Israel's Ben-Gurion airport, and declare their intention to travel on to the West Bank upon their arrival.
Dozens of Israeli activisits are due to await the arrival of the fly-in protesters at the airport. In a notice published on Saturday, Israeli activists said they will await for the fly-in protesters with "welcome signs" and "open arms."
Dozens of pro-Palestinian activists were prevented from boarding Israel-bound flights on Friday, due to the fact that their names appeared on the blacklist distributed by the Israeli government to a number of European airlines.
Police are planning to intercept participants in the "Welcome to Palestine" actions at the airport and prevent their entry into the country. Hundreds of police officers are expected to be stationed at the airport ahead of their arrival, most of them unarmed and clothed in civilian dress.
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