PM Netanyahu Ben Gurion Airport_311.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner GPO)
Dozens of police officers were deployed to Ben-Gurion International Airport Wednesday, in preparation for two planes, one from New York and one from Moscow, which were set to land purportedly carrying activists taking part in the "aerial flotilla" to Gaza.
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Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu toured Ben Gurion International Airport along with Police Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to discuss preparations for the arrival of hundreds of Gaza activists arriving from Europe starting Friday, Army Radio reported. Following the tour, the prime minister headed to Romania and Bulgaria.
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Keeping the airport functioning as usual will be the most important goal for security officials as activists arrive, most of whom will likely be difficult to identify, Army Radio said.
One protester, speaking to Army Radio Wednesday, said that he and other protesters were planning on arriving to Ben Gurion Airport as tourists destined for the West Bank.
According to the activist, the difference between him and any other tourist visiting Israel is that he and other demonstrators will tell security officials that they plan on visiting Palestinian cities.
Netanyahu said of plans to stop the activists, "Every country has the right to prevent the entry of provocateurs and trouble-makers into its territory. That is how all countries behave and that is how Israel will act. We must prevent the disruption of normal life for Israeli citizens."
By Tuesday, Police had already completed preparations to halt a plan by some 700 pro-Palestinian activists who have purchased tickets to fly into Ben-Gurion Airport on Friday.
Police plans are based on the assumption that some activists seeking to embark on an ‘aerial flotilla’ might be able to land in Israel since their names are not on any security watch list, allowing them to evade preemptive flight bans.
“The emphasis is on keeping Ben-Gurion Airport functioning normally, and preventing extremists from creating a provocative incident that could cause disruption,” Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Special patrol units will be at the airport from Friday to Sunday to provide assistance if needed.
The increased preparedness is due to go into effect from Friday and last through into the weekend, Rosenfeld added.
The activists, mostly European, are participating in an event that is
supported by 40 Palestinian non-governmental groups, called “Welcome
Palestine.” They are hoping they will be able to get on their flight,
land in Ben-Gurion Airport and explain to the Israeli customs officials
that they have come to visit “Palestine.” If they are allowed to pass
through customs, they plan to spend a week in the Palestinian
territories engaging in a series of solidarity activities in support of
If they are halted before getting on their flights or are deported once
they have arrived, they hope that the spectacle of authorities dealing
with 700 activists will publicize the difficulties Palestinians and
their supporters face with regard to freedom of movement and access in
and out of the West Bank. The organizers said that their actions are not
connected to the Gaza flotilla or the naval blockade of Gaza.
In the past, Israel has denied entry to international activists that it
believes are planning to create disturbances while they are here.