Israel expelled 25 pro-Palestinian activists who landed at Ben Gurion airport on Friday and was interrogating another 30 suspects there, police told AFP.
“Twenty-five have been sent back where they came from,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. “Thirty are still being questioned.”
Israeli police at Ben Gurion airport had deported two American women Friday morning, as airlines across Europe barred 300 passengers on an Israeli blacklist from flying, prompting demonstrations in Paris and Geneva airports.
Barred passengers were camped out in the Paris airport, and French authorities were holding three in detention, a French activist told Ma’an.
Organizers of the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, which some have described as the “flytilla,” say 600 or so activists booked to fly in on Friday to visit Palestinian families and have “totally peaceful intentions.”
Activists told Ma’an that “at least 40” people had successfully boarded planes in Europe to participate in a week of activities in the West Bank, including theater trips and tree-planting.
Israel’s main airport was swarmed by police Thursday night, as well as an Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs delegation set to welcome “real tourists” with flowers.
“Israel has given airlines a list of 342 unwanted people, warning them that they will be immediately turned back at the expense of the companies,” Israeli immigration spokeswoman Sabine Hadad told AFP.
Two Americans who arrived in Ben Gurion Friday morning were returned to their departure point of Athens, due to their “intention to create provocations and disrupt the peace,” Israeli police said.
A French activist with the ‘EuroPalestine’ group told Ma’an that Mohammad Al-Amir, Petseyana Leddis and Adrian Rue, who were planning to travel to Ben Gurion airport, had been detained in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.
“Israel is dictating laws to France by barring its people from traveling,” she said.
She added that the group of 300 activists are waiting “paralyzed” at the airport having being blocked from travel. “We are a very peaceful movement,” she insisted.
At Roissy airport in France, at least nine activists were prevented from boarding a flight of Hungarian carrier Malev to Tel Aviv via Budapest.
Another group of French citizens were turned back at Geneva airport and were gathering to protest the ban, activists said.
Israeli immigration authorities said on Friday that 180 blacklisted passengers have been turned away by airlines.
In a statement, the organizers of the “flytilla” campaign condemned the Israeli pressure on airlines and threatened legal action.
“We call on all airline companies not to accept such provocative, blackmailing, and illegal actions by the Israeli government,” it said.