Police prepare for arrival of 'air flotilla' activists

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists due to arrive at airport; PM: I've ordered all security agencies to avoid unneeded confrontations.

Police at Ben Gurion Airport 311 (R) (photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Police at Ben Gurion Airport 311 (R)
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian foreign activists taking part in an “aerial flotilla” to the West Bank are expected to begin arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport from Thursday night onward, according to police assessments.
Three people were denied entry into Israel in recent days after their names appeared on a no-entry list, police said, although it was not immediately clear whether they were directly connected to the organized arrivals.
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Police on Wednesday began boosting their presence in and around the main international arrivals area at Terminal 3, with regular units and Special Patrol Units mobilized.
By Thursday afternoon, the full police deployment will be in effect. "The main aim is to prevent sporadic incidents,” the spokesman added. The majority of the flights carrying activists are due to arrive from Europe.
“We are aware that the whole point of the protesters is to create a media buzz aimed at embarrassing the State of Israel,” said Cmdr. Bentsi Sao, head of the Central Police District, in which the airport is located.
“We know they cannot arrive with weapons [but believe] they will try to create provocations,” Sao said, adding that his officers had been ordered to act with restraint.
At the same time, anyone found “disrupting the peace, or attacking police or Interior Ministry officials” will be arrested, he warned.
Police and the Interior Ministry denied an earlier report that five activists had managed to get past security and were now in Israel.
“We have no idea where that report came from,” a police spokesman said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a meeting with police commissioner Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino and Interior Ministry representatives at the airport.
“I’ve ordered all agencies to act with determination to prevent provocations, and also to try and prevent unnecessary confrontations,” the premier said. “Every state has the right to prevent entry to provocateurs and to those who aim to disrupt public order.”
In the midst of the preparations, activists and their associates in Israel have protested what they described as erroneous representations of their group’s aims.
“Do not deport the peace activists in the aerial flotilla. They are not hooligans,” the Gush Shalom movement said in a letter to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who earlier had used that specific term. “They are adults and families who came to visit Palestinians.”
The letter, written by Gush Shalom spokesman Adam Keller, said descriptions of the activists as “provocateurs” were inaccurate.
“This is in reality a plan by peace activists to visit the homes of Palestinian families, called ‘Welcome to Palestine,’” Keller said. “Whole families will take part: women, men and children.”
Organizers of ‘Welcome to Palestine’ said in a press release that they decried “the numerous attempts by Israeli and other media to distort” their messages and activities.
“We hope and expect the Israeli authorities to allow them safe passage in compliance with international law and normal diplomatic bilateral protocols,” the group said, referring to the international participants. “We also reject the Israeli government threat to engage in mass deportation of peace activists, and the apparent attempt to justify this unjustifiable action by using rumors that they spread.”