Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Saturday that preparations for the pro-Palestinian "flytilla" are already underway. "Many people have already decided not to come after learning we won't let them fly," he said. "Nevertheless, we are preparing to see hundreds trying to enter Israel."
The minister expressed satisfaction with the cooperation of foreign airlines who he said are preventing those identified by Israel as pro-Palestinian activists not to board their flights.
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As part of preparations, hundreds of officers in civilian clothing will be deployed at the Ben Gurion Airport. "We have taken the necessary steps both in Israel and abroad," Aharonovitch said. "We shall not allow riots in and around the airport. Some won't show up, others will try to cause disruptions and we will not allow it – they will be sent back overseas."
Aharonovitch said that there is information suggesting that an unidentified plane will arrive on Saturday night with a number of activists. "Activists who try to cause disruptions will be isolated from the main terminal," he said.
Asked whether Israel knows who the activists are, he said: "We know, not about all of them, there are hundreds of people involved, some of whom we naturally are not aware of."
He added, "They will try to create provocations at the airport. We will not allow it and will ensure the airport is fully functional."
Referring to claims that the "flytilla" constitutes a legitimate form of protest, the minister said: "These are leftists, anarchists, who aim to cause disruptions. They can protest legitimately at their place of residence, not inside the airport, we are aware of their intentions."
Leftist activists riot at BG Airport last year (Photo: Yaron Brener)
According to the "flytilla" organizers, some of the activists are scheduled to land in Israel on Saturday night, mainly those arriving from the US or Canada. Most of the activists, however will arrive on Sunday at around noon.
They will be greeted at the airport by Israeli leftists who support the initiative. Ruth, one of the Israeli activists, said that the Israeli group is meant to greet the foreign activists and swiftly transport them to Bethlehem.
"We have the advantage of freedom of movement and contact with lawyers if the need arises," she said. "We expect to be arrested at the airport, though we have no intention of creating provocations."
The Israeli organizers stressed they will provide legal aid to whoever is arrested at the airport.
Meanwhile, there were no signs of provocations in Britain. An easyJet flight that departed from the Luton Airport on Saturday did not appear to contain any pro-Palestinian activists headed to the West Bank.
Earlier, Britain's Jet2 airline canceled the tickets of three passengers whose names appeared on Israel's list of "flytilla" activists.
Air France and Lufthansa also canceled tickets of dozens of activists who were trying to reach Bethlehem via the Ben Gurion Airport.
'Air France risks union protest'
Jacques Neno, one of the flytilla's organizers, told Ynet that by refusing to allow activists to board its Israel flights, Air France is risking a protest by the Charles de Gaulle Airport workers union. The union had sent the activists a letter supporting the campaign.
Neno noted that 10 activists have thus far arrived in Bethlehem, mostly from Canada. He said that since they came alone and from faraway countries, they lied and stated they had come to Israel as ordinary tourists.
One of the Palestinian organizers of the "flytilla," Mazen Quneisa, expressed satisfaction with the large media coverage the campaign has been receiving as well as the number of hits on its official website. He noted that hackers tried to hack into one of their sites, but failed.
The "flytilla's" organizers claimed 1,500 people, including at least 500 French citizens are taking part in the protest.
As part of their activities in the West Bank, the activists are scheduled to help renovate one of Bethlehem's international schools, help fix water wells, plant trees in Beit Omar and help build a museum on Palestinian refugees in a Bethlehem refugee camp. They are also scheduled to tour Ramallah, Hebron, Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley.
Omri Efraim, Rona Zinman, Attila Somfalvi, Elior Levy, Gilad Morag contributed to this report
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