A Palestinian official has criticized the treatment of two Arab passengers who disembarked from an Israel-bound flight after other travelers complained of security concerns.
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The Greek Aegean Airlines says the two passengers agreed to take a later flight from Athens after passengers "persistently and vocally complained" and demanded additional security checks.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Wednesday the passengers were treated with "discrimination and prejudice."
A passenger on the flight identified only as Nissim told Israeli Army Radio that one passenger appeared suspicious. He said no one cited the passengers' ethnicity as a reason for their concerns. He said "no one was racist."
Aegean, who identified the Arab passengers as Israeli, called the incident "unfortunate" and thanked the two passengers for their cooperation. The incident took place Sunday.
According to the airline, “an initially small group” of passengers “very vocally and persistently” demanded that two Israeli Arab citizens be “checked for security issues.” With the flight unable to take off, the captain called the airport police, who checked the “documents and identities” of the two passengers and found nothing amiss.
But by then, “a much larger group of passengers” had begun protesting the presence of the two Israeli Arabs, “despite the assurances given by the crew, according to Aegean Airlines.”
The flight was delayed by more than an hour-and-a-half until the two Israeli Arab passengers agreed to disembark. Even after that, the group of passengers insisted that the crew conduct an additional security check, causing the captain to warn them that they would be forcibly removed from the plane without compensation.