Israel detains 30 pro-Palestinian activists at airport

Israel detains 30 pro-Palestinian activists at airport

Israeli police on Sunday detained 30 pro-Palestinian activists at Ben Gurion airport who took part in a fly-in aimed at drawing attention to Israel's occupation of the West Bank, dpa reported.

Several hundred activists who were prevented from boarding planes bound for Tel Aviv protested at European airports, including Paris, Brussels and Geneva, accusing their governments and airlines of "collaborating" with Israel.

Activists waved Palestinian flags in departure halls, chanting slogans against the airlines and against what they called "Israel's policy of isolating the West Bank" by controlling all entry and exit points.

Israel had handed airlines a "black list" of known activists who would not be allowed entry.

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said those refused entry at Ben Gurion airport included a Portuguese national who arrived on a Jordanian Airlines flight from Amman, a Canadian who was put on a return flight to the United States and others who arrived from Paris and Geneva.

He said all would be deported after questioning.

Four Israeli left-wing activists were also detained at Ben Gurion airport. Two of them were led away flashing V-victory signs as police, who do not issue licenses for demonstrations at the airport, confiscated signs reading "Welcome to Palestine." The international activists want to reach the occupied West Bank, but Israel has said it will not allow entry to "provocateurs" via its territory.

Some 650 policemen were deployed at Ben Gurion Airport to cope with the influx.

Pro-Palestinian groups had hoped for up to 1,500 arrivals at Ben-Gurion, but many tickets were returned to their owners after Israel pressured airlines, including Air France and Germany's Lufthansa, not to allow them to board so as not to have to transport them back on return flights.

Dozens of activists protested at Paris' Charles de Gaul Terminal 1, cheering, whistling and chanting "Israel, boycott! Lufthansa, boycott!"

One sign read: "France, a new Israeli settlement?".

Dozens also protested in Brussels. In Switzerland, more than 50 activists were turned down when they tried to board their flights from Geneva and Basel to Israel, Swiss news agency sda reported.

Seven Italians were also prevented from boarding an Alitalia flight to Tel Aviv from Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci airport.

The group was handed a statement at a check-in desk in which they were notified that Israeli authorities had forbidden them from flying to Tel Aviv, the ANSA news agency reported.

Israel handed activists who did make it to Ben Gurion a letter thanking them for coming to demonstrate against its policies in the West Bank, when they could have chosen to go to Syria, Iran, or the Gaza Strip, which is run by the Islamist group Hamas.

Israel insists it has the right to prevent disturbances of the order by denying entry to suspected trouble-makers.

A similar fly-in took place in July.

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