Israel deports 23 pro-palestinian activists, 58 still held

AFP , Monday 11 Jul 2011

Attempt by activists to visit Palestine prompts Israeli authorities to detain 120 of those who had made it to Tel Aviv

Israel on Monday deported 23 foreign pro-Palestinian activists who were taken into custody after flying into Israel for protests at the weekend, an official told AFP.

"There are 58 remaining (in Israeli custody)," immigration service spokeswoman Sabine Hadad told AFP, adding they would be flown out as soon as there was space available on departing aircraft.

She said one Belgian had been admitted to Israel early on Monday, after he signed an undertaking to keep the peace and stay away from protests.

Those expelled during the day were 15 Belgians, six French nationals and two Germans, Hadad said.

Those still in custody were part of the "Welcome to Palestine" campaign in which up to 800 people from Europe and the United States planned to fly to Israel and head to the Palestinian territories to visit Palestinian families.

Israeli authorities mobilised diplomatic and security forces to try to head off the incoming activists.

Officials said that by notifying foreign airlines of ticket-holders who would not be admitted to Israel, they had prevented hundreds of people from boarding at their ports of departure.

Of those who managed to arrive, 120 were denied entry to Israel and taken into custody, although a handful were later admitted after signing pledges not to take part in public disorder.

The "Welcome to Palestine" campaign took place as a flotilla of ships trying to break a blockade on the Gaza Strip was prevented from leaving Greece.

The timing of the fly-in campaign led some to dub it a "flytilla," although organisers denied their mission was linked to the attempt to run the blockade.

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