Tense quiet at B-G airport ahead of ‘Flightilla'

Police, border officials await arrival of hundreds mainly European pro-Palestinian activists taking part in event “Welcome to Palestine.”

Police at Airport 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Police at Airport 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
A somewhat heightened level of security was apparent at Ben-Gurion Airport’s Terminal 3 on Thursday as police and border officials began awaiting the arrival of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists starting early Friday morning at roughly 2 a.m.
Mainly European activists from dozens of pro-Palestinian groups, they are taking part in an event called “Welcome to Palestine,” but which has been dubbed the “Flightilla” or “Air Flotilla” by the Israeli press. The protest was meant to coincide with the arrival of the Gaza Flotilla, which has been all but scuttled following the interference of the Greek government.
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Activists taking part in the “Flightilla” have said that they plan on arriving at Ben-Gurion and making their intention to visit “Palestine” known to border officials. They said that if refused entry, they hoped it would bring attention to Israel’s control of international travel to the West Bank. If granted entry, many were expected to travel to the Palestinian territories to take part in solidarity activities with local activists.
On Tuesday, police said they had finished preparations for the event, and that special patrol units would be deployed in force at the airport beginning on Friday.
In the main arrivals hall on Thursday, a handful of police could be seen milling about while about a dozen members of the riot squad made their way through. Private security guards could also be seen making rounds.
Otherwise, it appeared to be business as usual on a busy Thursday, as tourists clogged the arrivals hall and TV crews waited for signs of a disturbance.
A cashier at the “Swarovski” stand in Terminal 3, who requested anonymity, said that neither she nor anyone else was given any indication by police or security officials that anything out of the ordinary would happen on Friday.
“[I] wasn’t told about anything at all, and I hope nothing will happen,” she said.