Israel, Europe Crack Down on Palestinian 'Flytilla'

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Common Dreams

Israel, Europe Crack Down on Palestinian 'Flytilla'

Scores arrested, stranded in day of protest

by
Common Dreams staff

An Israeli undercover policewoman (right) arrests an activist holding a pro-Palestinian slogan at Ben Gurion air port near Tel Aviv on April 15. British airline easyJet has said it had joined other carriers in preventing pro-Palestinian activists from boarding flights to Israel after pressure from the country's government (Agence France-Presse)

Over 40 pro-Palestinian activists on their way to the West Bank have been detained upon arrival as they reached Israel's Ben Gurion airport on Sunday as part of an action planned by the Welcome to Palestine Initiative 2012 - a bid to 'challenge Israel's policy of isolating the West Bank'. Hundreds more are expected to reach Tell Aviv throughout the day as the activists persist.

Many other campaigners from around the world are attempting to reach Tel Aviv today, as authorities attempt a blockade.

An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said Israel had given airlines the names of some 1,200 activists whose entry would be barred. Airlines Lufthansa and Jet2 began refusing activists' passage this week, returning tickets and informing blacklisted activists that they will not be allowed to travel to Israel.

In Brussels' Zaventem airport, around 100 Belgian and French activists were not allowed to board flights to Israel.

Scores of activists also protested at Charles de Gaulle in Paris, where airport sources said 90 passengers were denied passage on Lufthansa and Swiss Air flights for Tel Aviv.

Reports of denied and detained passengers are surfacing from Vienna, Rome, London, Switzerland, and Istanbul were another 50 activists were stranded after Turkish Airlines refused to allow them on board.

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Reuters: Israel moves to thwart pro-Palestinian "fly-in"

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that 41 people had been refused entry at Ben Gurion airport by early afternoon and would be deported. Four Israeli supporters, two holding "Welcome to Palestine" signs, were also arrested as they waited to greet the arrivals.

An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said Israel on Wednesday had given airlines the names of some 1,200 activists whose entry would be barred. Israel made it clear the carriers would have to bear the costs of repatriating any deportees.

Leehee Rothschild, a "Welcome to Palestine" activist, said dozens of campaigners had since been informed by airlines that their tickets to Tel Aviv had been cancelled.

Organizers had said some 1,200 Palestinian supporters throughout Europe had bought plane tickets to Israel, planning to travel on to the occupied West Bank, an hour's drive from Tel Aviv, as part of a campaign called "Welcome to Palestine".

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Agence France-Presse: Israel bans 'flytilla' activists but hundreds left in Europe

Flanked by dozens of anti-riot police, they marched up to the Lufthansa counter to demand an "official written statement" as to why they had not been allowed to fly.

At Istanbul airport, another 50 activists were stranded after Turkish Airlines reportedly refused to allow them on board, Anatolia news agency reported.

In Vienna, Austrian Airlines said five passengers were barred from flights to Tel Aviv, and in Rome, Alitalia turned back seven Italian activists, press reports said.

Air France and two British budget carriers, Jet2.com and easyJet, also barred an unspecified number of passengers, with easyJet confirming it had prevented activists from boarding Israel-bound planes from both London and Switzerland.

Despite the success of its diplomatic campaign to pressure European carriers not to allow activists to board flights for Tel Aviv, Israel deployed hundreds of police at its main international airport with orders to "exercise restraint, but to intercept any troublemakers."

All of Sunday's arrests took place far from the whirring cameras with police detaining 33 French nationals, two Spaniards, two Italians, one Swiss national, one Canadian and one from Portugal as soon as they landed.

Of that number 27 French nationals were refusing to board planes back to France, immigration spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told AFP, saying they would be "transferred to a detention facility."

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