Bahraini officials collect 'Free Gaza' detainees

Official delegation visits Israel to pick up 5 activists who were on board protest ship which Navy seized.

free gaza boat 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
free gaza boat 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A delegation from Bahrain visited Israel in an official capacity for the first time on Friday, according to a Reuters report. The officials reportedly made the trip in order to pick up five nations who were being deported. A report from the Bahrain News Agency, which was cited in the Reuters report, the Bahrainis were on board a 'Free Gaza' protest ship which was seized at sea by the Navy after attempting to reach the Gaza Strip earlier this week. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor was quoted as confirming that the officials had arrived in Israel, but said that there was "no other significance" to the visit apart from accompanying the deportees. Most members of the group of foreign peace activists remained in custody Friday, three days after their failed attempt to enter the Gaza Strip, relatives and supporters said. In the Free Gaza movement's most recent attempt to enter the Strip, 21 activists set sail from Cyprus on a ship laden with humanitarian aid. The Navy intercepted the ship Tuesday after it ignored repeated messages saying it would not be allowed to enter Gaza waters and ordering it to turn back. Among those still being held Friday were former US representative Cynthia McKinney and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, said Sandra Law, mother of detained British activist Alex Harrison. Law, speaking to The Associated Press from her London home, said her daughter was being held together with other women from the group at Ramle jail, near Ben-Gurion airport. She said she spoke briefly to her daughter on Friday. "The conditions [in the jail] aren't great, but they're certainly not as bad as they could be," Law said. "They're in good spirits. ... Alex is very upbeat." She said the planned deportation of the activists may have been delayed by their refusal to sign legal documents in Hebrew, which they do not understand. Palmor said that those who signed an undertaking to return home voluntarily could be released immediately and repatriated on the first available flight. He went on to state that the law demanded that those who refused that option must be held for 72 hours before being served a compulsory deportation order. If they choose not to fight that order in local courts, he said, they could be deported Saturday night or Sunday. He did not know exactly how many group members remained jailed Friday. The Free Gaza Movement said that the five Bahrainis among the group were released after the intervention of that country's ruler, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Others on the passenger list included a Jordanian correspondent for Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera and his Yemeni cameraman as well as a Palestinian human rights activist and activists from the United States, Britain, Ireland and Denmark. A military statement issued on Tuesday said Israeli naval personnel boarded their small vessel without any shots being fired. It was ordered to the Israeli port of Ashdod and impounded. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told reporters outside a Gaza mosque on Friday that Palestinians demanded a complete end to the blockade. "The siege must be lifted and all the crossings have to be open and life to get back to normal in the Gaza Strip," he said.