Israel Refuses Entry to 18 Americans
Published on Tuesday, July 2, 2002 by the Associated Press
Israel Refuses Entry to 18 Americans
by Ramit Plushnick-Masti

JERUSALEM –– Israel barred 18 Americans from entering the country and put them on a flight back to the United States on Tuesday as part of a policy of refusing entry to foreigners who want to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

The Americans arrived at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday with the aim of going to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Tova Ellison said.

The U.S. group included naturalized citizens born in Pakistan, Egypt and Iraq, she said. Two members of the U.S. group were admitted entry because they have Israeli citizenship. A British citizen traveling with the Americans was put on a flight back to Britain.

"They wanted to show solidarity with the Palestinians," she said. "The state of Israel is in a state of war at the moment and no other country would allow its enemies or those who support its enemies to enter," Ellison said.

The U.S. Embassy said it was checking on the matter and did not immediately comment. U.S. citizens normally receive a 90-day tourist visa upon arrival in Israel.

Ellison said Israel began refusing entry to supporters of the Palestinian Authority in March, a time when the Israeli military was carrying out a broad offensive in the West Bank and reoccupied Palestinian cities in a bid to root out militants.

Since then, about 120 foreigners have been expelled from Israel and more than 200 have been refused entry, Ellison said.

"The Interior Ministry does not allow and will not allow entry to those who come to support terror and the people who want to hurt the state of Israel," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Early in June, Israel barred a group of 20 U.S. Muslims from entering the country. In another case, eight foreigners, among them a Jordanian journalist and two U.S. citizens, were expelled after troops caught them in the Balata refugee camp making a solidarity visit with Palestinians.

During the army's offensive in March, a group of foreigners opposed to Israel's military actions stormed into Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where troops kept him under siege for 34 days.

Another group entered the Church of the Nativity, where there was a tense six-week standoff between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen who took refuge in the holy site. Thirteen wanted Palestinians were eventually deported to European countries and another 26 were sent to Gaza. Most of the foreigners were deported. Some fought the order and have been jailed.

© 2002 The Associated Press