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Fly-in demo

July 8, 2011

International activists have been turned away from Israel as they flew in for a protest in the West Bank. The Israeli Interior Ministry told airlines they are bound by Israeli law to remove "pro-Palestinian radicals."

A local pro-Palestinian activist flashes the 'peace-sign' as he gets arrested at the Ben-Gurion airport
Protesters landed in Israel and were taken into custodyImage: picture alliance/dpa

Dozens of pro-Palestinian activists planning to fly to Israel for a week-long protest have been barred from the country, after being placed on an Israeli blacklist.

Authorities at the country's main airport, Ben Gurion International in Tel Aviv, seized 20 pro-Palestinian activists after they landed on Friday, police said.

"They were questioned and didn't pass the questioning," said police spokeswoman Luba Samri, adding that they would soon be sent back to Switzerland, where their flight originated.

Airlines have been strongly discouraged by the Israeli Interior Ministry from allowing activists to fly. Two US nationals were refused entry on arrival in Israel on Friday, and dozens more were prevented from boarding flights from Geneva and Paris. German carrier Lufthansa, Hungarian airline Malev, EasyJet and Alitalia are among the airlines reportedly stopping activists from checking onto their Tel Aviv flights, saying their names were on a list of "undesirable people."

Busy Palestinian street with people waving flags
Activists have planned a week of peaceful protests in the West BankImage: DW

"Israel has given airlines a list of 342 unwanted people, warning them that they will be immediately turned back at the expense of the companies," Israeli immigration spokeswoman Sabine Hadad told news agency AFP.

Non-violent protest

Organizers of the campaign - dubbed "Welcome to Palestine" - said their intention was to demonstrate support for the Palestinian people through "totally peaceful" means. They said they expected around 600 men, women and children from a number of countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, to a take part in a week of activities in the West Bank.

A spokesman for the group, Mazin Qumsiyeh, said the activists had no intention of causing a disruption at the airport or anywhere else.

Flotilla protest in Greece
The 'flytilla' comes as repeated flotilla attempts have failedImage: dapd

"Israeli authorities made the mistake of mobilizing security on people who are obviously not a security threat," he said. "We expect all the people who respond by coming, by being our guests in Palestine, to sign a paper in which they commit to non-violence."

Flotilla fails

Authorities in France, where most of the activists were expected to come from, expressed concern about the possibility of violence.

"France is worried by the risk of incidents and clashes that could develop at Tel Aviv airport on Friday," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The planned "fly-in" of activists comes after a 10-boat flotilla of activists seeking to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinians failed. Organizers of the ill-fated flotilla said the only boat that managed to leave a Greek port was caught on Thursday.

Author: Chuck Penfold, Gabriel Borrud (Reuters, AFP, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler