Israel Deports Five Ahead of Anticipated Influx of pro-Palestinian Activists

600-1,200 activists were expected to attempt entry to Israel as counterpart to the Gaza flotilla.

Israeli police have deported five pro-Palestinian activists in the past two days. The activists were sent back to their home countries, France and Begium.

Dozens of Israeli security forces deployed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Wednesday afternoon, following reports that hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists planned to fly into the country as a counterpart to the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Increased security at Ben-Gurion Airport, July 6, 2011
Moti Milrod

Between 600 and 1,200 activists are expected to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday night and Friday, on flights from Moscow and New York.

Israel Police and Border Police officers are currently spread out across the arrivals hall. Hundreds more security officers plan to be stationed throughout the airport over the coming days in anticipation of the activists' arrival.

It is expected that the activists will set up camp across the airport as part of their protest.

Yet the organizers of the flights denied their intention. One of them, Lubna Masarawa, told Haaretz in a phone call from London that the reports are overblown and do not reflect the activists' plans. "The main mistake is the attempt to tie the flights to the flotilla," she said. "There is no connection between the two."

The organizers say the idea is to send hundreds of civil society activists to visit the Palestinian Authority. The planning began about a year ago. "The activists will arrive as tourists and ask to pass through border control like any other tourists," Masarawa said. "There is no plan to confront anyone, but a true will to visit Palestinian cities and then the Negev."

Elsa Rassbach, another organizer, told Haaretz that "to classify us as hooligans is ridiculous. We are talking about a group of civil society activists whose average age is between 50 and 60."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Wednesday that security forces must act firmly against the planned protests.

"Every country has the right to prevent the entry of provocateurs into its borders," Netanyahu said during a meeting with several heads of Israeli security services at the Ben-Gurion airport.

Netanyahu stressed that Israel will act as every civilized country would in the face of provocateurs, but ordered security forces to "avoid unnecessary altercations."

Following the discussion, Netanyahu ordered Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to exert all efforts to prevent an infiltration into Israel's borders.

Haaretz reported Tuesday that Israel has provided intelligence to the United States, seven European countries, and several foreign airline companies regarding the activists who plan on participating in the airport protest.