Israel preps for ‘flytilla’ campaign

Israel preps for ‘flytilla’ campaign

Israeli security forces said yesterday they had begun preparations for a “fly-in” of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists expected to arrive at Ben Gurion airport this weekend.

“We have made arrangements and are prepared for this operation, which is expected to begin from April 15,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Agence France-Presse, without giving further details.

Hundreds of activists mainly from European countries are expected to try to fly into Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, with the goal of travelling to the Palestinian West Bank.

The so-called “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, which has been dubbed a “flytilla,” is taking place for the third year. In 2010, organizers said around 100 activists were able to arrive without incident and travel to the West Bank, access to which is controlled by Israel. But last year, Israel worked with airlines to prevent hundreds of activists from boarding planes bound for Ben Gurion, and detained and later deported others who managed to arrive.

Israel’s public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on April 9 supervised a meeting of the security forces that will be in charge of the operation at Ben Gurion, including airport authorities, immigration officials and police. “No provocation will be tolerated,” Israeli media quoted him telling his forces. “As any other country would do, Israel will stop hostile elements from entering its territory.” Israeli media said security forces estimate some 2,500 activists will try to arrive at Ben Gurion, though the “Welcome to Palestine” organizers said last month they were expecting around 1,500.