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In the detention center
Photo: Herzel Yosef
On the boat
Interior Ministry: All sail detainees will return home soon
Some 680 flotilla participants undergo hearing, 38 agree to go home. Ministry official: We could see hate in their eyes

Of the people who were aboard the flotilla to Gaza, 682 have had a hearing, and more than half of them are Turkish, according to the Interior Ministry's Immigration and Population Administration. It was also reported that 38 foreign nationals have agreed to return to their countries, most of whom have already flown. The Ministry expects all of the participants to leave within a few days.

 

According to Ministry data, 380 of those arrested are Turkish nationals, some of whom have agreed to return home. The others who agreed to return include citizens of the US, Ireland, Sweden and Germany. Those who have not yet agreed to identify themselves and return are being held in a detention center in the south of Israel.

 

Interior Ministry official Yossi Edelstein said the foreign nationals will undergo the usual process of repatriation. Each will have 72 hours to appeal the decision. Among those arrested a nationals of states which have no diplomatic ties with Israel, Edelstein said. The Ministry, together with the Foreign Ministry and the IDF, is seeking a third state via which they may be sent.

 

During the interrogation, in which Interior Ministry officials took part, the detainees did not look like people bringing humanitarian aid, Edelstein said.

 

"It was clear they had come to provoke," he said. "During the questioning, not a single one mentioned the issue of humanitarian aid. They all said they had come to demonstrate. We found papers in their pockets on which they had prepared clear messages for the press. There was also a more extreme group of Islamists; you could really see the hate in their eyes. We were shocked by the level of hate and by the things we heard against the existence of the State, and about Israel killing children."

 

Some detainees have refused to identify themselves, but most have done so after passports were found on the vessels.

 

"We brought many interpreters and tried to make them speak, and to explain the options they have," Edelstein said. "I believe that those who did not identify themselves understand that sitting in the detention center is not a better option than flying home. I believe that as the investigation advances, we'll at least know where they come from, then we'll have to get their consulates involved."

 

European countries have called for the immediate release of the detainees, and NATO chief Andres Fogh Rasmussen added his voice, also calling for an investigation into the violence.

 

The French prime minister and Italian foreign minister have also called for the release of the detainees.

 

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