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‘Flytilla’ activists taken to Givon prison pending deportation (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By YOEL GOLDMAN and GABE FISHER 04/15/12) Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-on-high-alert-ahead-of-flytilla/
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Most of the 43 pro-Palestinian protesters denied entry into Israel hold French citizenship
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Forty-three international pro-Palestinian activists were denied entry into Israel Sunday at Ben Gurion Airport. Twenty-nine of the activists — mostly French nationals — were taken to Givon prison in Ramle pending deportation.
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Nine of the protesters had been deported as of late afternoon Israel time, three were awaiting a flight back to their points of origin and two others remained in the airport having been denied entry.
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The foreign activists were part of the so-called “flytilla,” a mass fly-in protest organized by several pro-Palestinian organizations. Last year, a similar event resulted in dozens of arrests and deportations.
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Thirty-three of the foreign activists detained are citizens of France, according to Ynet. The remainder consists of two Italian citizens, two Spanish citizens and one citizen each from Portugal, Canada and Switzerland.
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Police also detained for questioning nine Israeli left-wing activists, who were at the airport to welcome the foreign activists to “Palestine.”
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Security officials at the airport stated that they were expecting the bulk of the international activists to arrive on flights scheduled to land in the late afternoon.
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Border police intended to deport any arriving activists back to their points of origin immediately. According to officials, if there was no room on outgoing flights Sunday, the activists would be handed over to immigration authorities.
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A senior airport security official speaking on condition of anonymity said that any activists not removed Sunday would be held at a recently-built “spacious” terminal at Ben Gurion that is meant to handle the removal and deportation of illegal aliens. Any individuals held overnight will be processed by Yehidat Oz, a Border Police unit that deals with tracking illegal aliens in Israel, according to the official.
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Incoming flights on Sunday that are considered problematic by security officials due to the presence of flytilla activists were being diverted to Terminal 1, which generally handles domestic flights.
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Coming out of a security assessment meeting, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the level of alert would remain high to ensure the smooth operation of the airport.
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“We are going to defend the borders in every possible way,” Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told Israel Radio on Sunday morning.
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The Prime Minister’s Office call the flytilla a “provocation [that] was conceived by extremist Islamic and anti-Israel organizations who object to peace and call for Israel’s destruction.”
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Hundreds of international pro-Palestinian activists were scheduled to arrive at the airport on Sunday in protest of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, but were not expected to be allowed entry into the country. An estimated 650 police and security officials, most in plain clothes, have been assigned to guard the airport.
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According to Katz, Sunday is to be a very busy day at Ben Gurion, with some 50,000 travelers passing through the airport at the end of the Passover and Easter holidays.
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On Saturday, responding to requests from the government, several airlines canceled flights to Israel, resulting in an estimated 60 percent drop in the number of protesters due to arrive, Haaretz reported.
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Authorities are paying particular attention to flights arriving from England, France, Belgium and Turkey, as most of the international activists are expected to arrive from these countries.
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Turkish authorities were actively preventing activists from getting on flights from Istanbul, according to reports on Twitter.
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Israel Radio reported that 100 activists in Geneva and seven in Rome were prevented from boarding their flights by authorities.
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Ynet News reported that dozens of left-wing activists protested at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on Sunday against the canceled flights, holding up signs reading: “The first checkpoint is in Paris.”
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The protesters in France also called for a boycott on airlines who were cooperating with government efforts to stop activists from arriving in Israel.
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The Prime Minister’s Office prepared a letter to be distributed to the activists who do arrive, defending Israel’s policies and advising them to focus on the “real problems” plaguing the region like Syria, Iran and Gaza before wishing them a “pleasant flight home.”
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Katz vigorously defended Israel’s right to turn away the activists, whom he said are known provocateurs backed by Iran. “Let’s not kid ourselves, these people are arriving to deliberately undermine Israel’s sovereignty,” Katz said, asserting that Israel’s response was proportionate to the threat.
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“We are one of the most democratic and liberal states in the world… but these are not people who want to be interviewed or who want peace. These are not simple people. They are people who want to harm the State of Israel,” said Katz.
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“This is the way to guard our borders,” he added. “Ben Gurion Airport is the entrance to the state. What if tomorrow they want to enter from the border with Jordan, Syria or Gaza? We have the right not to grant entry, just like any state.”
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Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On told Israel Radio she believed Israel was mishandling the protest. “The decision makers in this country have gone crazy,” said Gal-On. “Of course we have the right to defend our sovereignty, but the security of the state would not be threatened by several hundred protesters.”
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Gal-On said that Israel’s reaction to the protest blew the whole affair out of proportion. “We have turned this into an international story that only serves those who delegitimize us,” she said. “Israel has adopted the practices of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad by blocking off its borders. The best way to handle criticism is to negate it.”
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Several right-wing activists, including National Union MK Michael Ben Ari, arrived at the airport Sunday morning to hold a counter- protest. “This is not just another fly-in, this is anti-Semitism in modern garb,” said Ben Ari.
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Environment Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) also said that “these are not peace activists, they are anti-Israel and anti-Semites. They are against the existence of Israel and want to draw attention to that by international actions…we can’t give them a stage to delegitimize the State of Israel.”
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MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad), who was a passenger during 2010 Mavi Marmama flotilla incident, expressed support for the activists, saying “Israel needs to reconsider it’s policies and listen to criticism.”
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“We now see the results of a well-prepared strategy to prevent the infiltration of activists and provocateurs whose aim is to breach Israel’s sovereignty,” He posted on his Facebook page. “We have been working with our partners to ensure that Israel, like any other nation, will not allow problematic elements to enter our country in order to act against our national interests and security.”
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Local pro-Palestinian activists are also expected at the airport to greet the international arrivals.
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The police were instructed to use minimal force in dispersing the demonstrations and apprehending the protesters. (© 2012 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 04/15/12)
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