Israeli leftist activists
Photo: AFP
Flowers for 'ordinary' travelers
Photo: Ofer Amram

3 'flytilla' activists reach Bethlehem

Palestinians say three pro-Palestinian activists managed to escape airport scrutiny. Majority of activists who arrived in Israel detained. Internal Security Minister Aharonovitch satisfied with authorities' handling of situation

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch expressed his satisfaction with the way security forces handled attempts by pro-Palestinian activists to enter Israel as part of the "flytilla" protest, and praised the police for "enabling the airport to function normally."


"There were several activists who tried to cause provocations but were swiftly detained," he said.


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However, Israel failed to prevent the entry of all of the activists. A French activist who arrived at Bethlehem via the Ben Gurion Airport took part in a press conference and revealed that two others had also escaped airport scrutiny and arrived at the city.


Thus far, 48 activists landed in Israel, the majority of which were transferred to the Givon prison. Nine activists were sent back to their countries of origin, three await departure and two are being held in a special facility.


מעצר פעילים בשדה התעופה (צילום: AFP)

Israeli activists detained at airport (Photo: AFP)


The French activist said that 50 activists from Lyon, France were planning to board a flight to Israel, but that nearly half were denied boarding. She said 29 succeeded in boarding the flight.


She said that having arrived at the Ben Gurion Airport she was shifted around and eventually "found herself outside the airport."


מסיבת העיתונאים, אחר הצהריים בבית לחם (צילום: אוהד צויגנברג)

Press conference in Bethlehem (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


During the press conference, the fly-in's organizers said that 400 French activists, 100 Belgian activists and others were not allowed to board flights to Israel.


They responded to the Israeli government's "welcome letter" and said that a democracy does not deport people back to their countries. "The Israeli authorities have exposed their true face, " they said.


The organizers also noted that they will not be cancelling their activities in the West Bank and noted that there are 20 pro-Palestinian activists in Bethlehem, most of whom were not part of the "flytilla."


הפעילה הצרפתייה בבית לחם. "שמחה שהגעתי לפלסטין" (צילום: אוהד צויגנברג)

French activist in Bethlehem (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


The activists include citizens from France, Italy, Spain, Canada, Portugal and Switzerland. Nine Israeli leftist activists who protested at the Ben Gurion Airport were also detained for questioning.


It was also revealed that a French activist who managed to pass through airport security was close to enter Israel before he was detained.


Prior to boarding the plane in Paris, the activist received a note with directions to Bethlehem. After entering the terminal in Israel, he showed the note to a police officer in civilian clothing that was posted outside the security control circles surrounding the plane. The policeman arrested the activist and escorted him to a special facility for those refused entry. He is expected to leave Israel in few hours.


As part of preparations for the fly-in, organizers provided the activists with instructions and directions to help them reach the Palestinian authority.


An initial investigation revealed that the French activist boarded a flight that was marked by the police and its passengers were thoroughly checked. It was only during his questioning that immigration control realized the man intended to go to Bethlehem, and was stopped only because he showed the note to the wrong person.


Aharonovitch expressed his gratitude to the European countries and airlines that have prevented pro-Palestinian activists from boarding flights to Israel.


היערכות בנמל התעופה (צילום: עופר עמרם)

Police officers praised for handling attempted provocations (Photo: Ofer Amram)


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also commented on the fly-in during a meeting with US Senator Joe Lieberman.


He reiterated a message conveyed in a letter the activists received upon their arrival in Israel and suggested that they examine the issue of human rights in such countries as Iran and Syria where thousands of innocent civilians are being slaughtered and women are being stoned, respectively.


He also noted that in Gaza, children are being used as human shields for terrorists who fire rockets at Israeli civilians.


More activists set to arrive

During a police press briefing, several Israeli activists tried to cause disruptions and were stopped by officers. Five activists were detained for questioning.


A police official noted that the main bulk of the activists will be arriving in flights which are scheduled to land between 5 pm and 7 pm. He noted that most of the activists had been identified and barred from boarding the flights to Israel.


Palestinian organizers said that several activists had arrived in Bethlehem on Sunday. They accused Israel of introducing a new airport procedure which demands tourists to sign a statement declaring they will not contact or work with members of pro-Palestinian organizers.


Eli Senyor contributed to this report




פרסום ראשון: 04.15.12, 18:10
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