Israel bans ´flytilla´ activists but hundreds left in Europe (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Steve Weizman 04/15/12)
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Israel on Sunday barred 43 pro-Palestinian activists who had flown in
for a "Welcome to Palestine" campaign as hundreds more would-be
protesters were stranded at airports across Europe.
As hundreds of police deployed at Israel´s main international airport
in a bid to stop activists from entering, Europe´s main airlines
faced a wave of passenger fury after cancelling some 300 tickets
following heavy Israeli pressure.
By late afternoon, Israeli police said they had detained 43
passengers on suspicion of being part of the fly-in campaign, better
known as the "flytilla," with all facing deportation.
Organisers of "Welcome to Palestine," now in its third year, had been
expecting to welcome up to 1,500 people as part of a campaign to
expose Israel´s control of movement both into and out of the occupied
But only three activists managed to reach a news conference held by
organisers in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in the early evening.
Israel had vowed to prevent the activists´ entry, warning airlines
they would be forced to foot the bill for the activists´ immediate
return home in a move which saw many carriers toeing the line.
Scores of activists staged angry demonstrations at airports in
several European capitals.
At Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris, protesters
carrying banners, Palestinian flags closely monitored by CRS riot
police, headed for the Lufthansa desk.
"Today, the checkpoint is in Paris!" the demonstrators shouted. Their
banners read: "Roissy, Palestinian territory" and "Paris, following
Lufthansa and Swiss Air both stopped nearly 90 passengers on an
Israeli list of undesirable people take up their bookings on flights
from Paris to Tel Aviv.
At Brussels airport, protests erupted after at least 100 French and
Belgian nationals were unable to board flights with Brussels
Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss Air.
In Geneva, several dozen activists held an angry demonstration after
around 45 people out of a group of 70 who had been planning to join
the campaign were barred from boarding an easyJet flight.
At Istanbul airport, another 50 activists were stranded after Turkish
Airlines reportedly refused to allow them on board, Anatolia news
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 flying to Israel from
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."
Sunday´s arrests took place far from the whirring cameras with police
detaining activists from France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Canada
Thirty-one of those detained had refused to board planes back to
their homelands, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
"Twelve have been sent back to the destinations from which they
arrived, and the rest have been transferred to a prison in Ramle
(near Tel Aviv)," he said, adding that most of them were French.
In addition, Rosenfeld said, "nine Israelis were detained for being
involved in public disturbances at the terminal."
At the Bethlehem news conference, one of the three activists who
managed to attend slammed the Israeli internal security minister for
saying the "Welcome to Palestine" campaign was provocation.
"We are not criminals," the activist said. "We should all be able to
fight -- peacefully -- for what we believe in."
Last year, around 800 people tried to join the campaign, with many
blocked from flying by airlines. Another 120 were denied entry by
Israel and deported. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse.
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