Israeli officials say they hope to expel within 72 hours 118 pro-Palestinian activists that were arrested and denied entry upon their arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on a peaceful mission.
Israeli officials detained at least 120 activists that were part of the pro-Palestinian "Welcome to Palestine" campaign and organized the “flytilla” to Israel after Greece, in collusion with Israel, blocked Freedom Flotilla II aid convoy from delivering relief supplies to the impoverished Gaza Strip.
Israel’s Interior Ministry official Sabine Hadded said the timetable of the activists’ deportation depends on the airliners’ ability to fly them home, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.
The Israeli official said most of the activists were French, with the others being American, Belgian, Bulgarian, Dutch and Spanish.
Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has thanked the European states for helping limit the number of activists arriving at Ben Gurion Airport.
The detained activists are being held at two Israeli jails — one in Ramleh near Tel Aviv and the other at Beersheva in southern Israel’s Negev desert.
The visit by the pro-Palestinian activists was aimed at expressing solidarity with Palestinian residents living under Israeli occupation and protesting Israel’s border policies as well as its total blockade of Gaza, depriving its population of basic living requirements.
Israeli officials preempted the foreign activists’ campaign by releasing a blacklist to international airlines demanding that they block 342 passengers from boarding flights to Israel.
A Gaza-bound naval flotilla has been banned from leaving Greek waters, where some 10 ships are stuck after Athens imposed a blanket ban on the departure of any vessels destined for Gaza.
The activists have condemned the ban, saying Israel has no right to refuse them entry to the occupied Palestinian territories.