'Air Flotilla' lands, 69 activists barred entry

250 suspected pro-Palestinian activists detained from among five different flights for police questioning; Four activists returned home; Danino says police have met gov't goals at Ben-Gurion Airport.

July 8, 2011 17:17
4 minute read.

air flotilla police search airplane_311. (photo credit: Israel Police)


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Police diverted two passenger aircraft that landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday and detained at least 250 suspected pro-Palestinian activists that landed at the airport for questioning. Participants in the "Air Flotilla" arrived on three other flights as well.

Police said that 69 activists have been denied entry. Four of those denied entry were sent back to their original destinations, while the rest were taken into custody until flights could be arranged, Army Radio reported.

Business as usual at B-G as police await 'Flightilla'
Police prepare for arrival of 'air flotilla' activists

Two of the flights, one EasyJet from Geneva and one Alitalia, were diverted to Terminal 1, where police combed passengers for pro-Palestinian activists expected to attempt entry into the country as part of the "Air Flotilla," Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Police believed a bulk of foreign pro-Palestinian activists were on those jets.

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After police finished checking the flights, passengers not connected to the groups of activists were ferried back to Terminal 3. The suspected activists were taken to a separate area of the airport for questioning.

The activists involved represented a number of different countries, including the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Police Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino said his officers "succeeded in meeting the mission set by the government." Undercover agents and police continue to be deployed at Ben-Gurion Airport as more "air flotilla" participants were expected to arrive.

Meanwhile, six left-wing Israeli activists were arrested after causing a disturbance in the arrivals area at Terminal Three police added.

"Five males and one female are being questioned," Rosenfeld said.

The activists held up signs inside the terminal saying "Welcome to Palestine."

Several of them were taken outside by police where they were arrested and attacked by bystanders.

Earlier Friday, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch
said that even though hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists taking part in the "air flotilla" were prevented from entering Israel, "the wave was still ahead of us," adding that in the coming hours approximately 100 activists are expected to land in Israel.

"We're not taking any chances," the minister said.

Ahronovitch made the comments during an assessment held at Ben Gurion Airport on Friday morning together with police Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino and other senior police officials.

During the meeting, the latest security preparedness was discussed, and the minister heard that all security agencies were able to "significantly minimize" attempts by hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists abroad from reaching Israel, by preventing them from boarding at their point of origin, the Public Ministry said in a statement.

"At the same time, police preparations at Ben Gurion Airport is creating deterrence," the statement added. "The presence of undercover and overt forces at the airport has prevented many who sought to disturb public order from heading [to Israel]," the statement added.

Police are also mobilized at the Temple Mount and along the green line to prevent any disturbances.

There are a number of flights scheduled to arrive this afternoon that immigration authorities will pay special attention to, the Police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post.

Around 200 foreign activists are believed to have been banned from boarding flights bound for Israel in various European airports.

The Interior Ministry told foreign airlines on Thursday they were required under Israeli law to remove “pro-Palestinian radicals” from flights bound for Israel.

Also speaking at the airport on Friday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai commented that the "Immigration department is doing a good job. They prevented a few illegal activists from entering."

He added that "we have a list of some people who are planning to hold illegal demonstrations around the country."

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At Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport, fifty pro-Palestinian activists arrived at the Lufthansa terminal hoping to board a flight to Israel, and then refused to leave the terminal after they were blocked from boarding the plane, Israel Radio reported.

Olivia Zemour, leader of the EuroPalestine organization that is arranging the "air flotilla," said that the blacklist includes names of 347 activists.

"Charles de Gaulle Airport is under Israeli occupation. We are peaceful people and have no interest in causing disorder at Ben Gurion Airport," Zemour was quoted by Israel Radio as saying.

In Geneva, EasyJet also refused to let 30 acitivists on board a flight to Israel.

Tovah Lazaroff, Herb Keinon, and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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