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
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
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