Israeli authorities have reinforced security at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport ahead of the expected arrival of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists.
According to the pro-Palestinian "Welcome to Palestine" group, over 600 activists will fly to Israel between Thursday and Friday to show solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
On Wednesday, Israeli authorities stationed hundreds of extra police officers, including the anti-terror squad, throughout Ben-Gurion airport, claiming that some of the activists plan to cause chaos at the airport.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also toured the Ben-Gurion airport in order to supervise the preparations and held a special meeting with security officials there.
The tight security measures were placed despite repeated announcement by activists that they have no intention of causing disturbance at the airport and that their activities would be peaceful.
The pro-Palestinian activists are expected to arrive in Israel in 50 flights from Europe.
"I don’t know who invented this story. We are only coming to visit the West Bank and show solidarity with the Palestinian people," said Olivia Zemor, organizer of the French delegation of "Welcome to Palestine.”
Yet, Zemor said she and her fellows will protest if they are treated badly or humiliated.
"They don’t have the right to refuse us the right to visit. Each one of us is going to say that we are part of the mission and do not have to stay at the airport. We are going to go there and queue normally as the other passengers. Of course, if they are going to select people without any reason, without any explanation to deny our entry, we will object," she said.
According to Israeli sources, at least five pro-Palestinian activists have been deported from Israel in the past two days.
The “aerial flotilla” comes after a Gaza-bound naval flotilla was 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 10-ship humanitarian flotilla was supposed to set sail for the Gaza Strip in early July in a bid to break Israel’s five-year blockade on the coastal territory which is home to 1.5 million Palestinians.
Members of the flotilla accuse the Greek government of succumbing to Israeli pressure to block the humanitarian flotilla.
Greece has recently expanded its relations with Israel, and the two sides are currently holding preliminary talks on potential energy deals.
Greece’s cash-strapped government is also seeking additional sources of overseas investment, possibly from Israel, to offset its financial crisis.
Israel’s security cabinet has ordered the Israeli navy to use all possible means to prevent the incoming international aid flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip, but the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II organizers insist that they will push ahead with their aid mission.