120 foreign activists detained by Israel

July 9, 2011 - 12:14 PM
APTOPIX Mideast Israel Palestinians

A locally-based pro-Palestinian activist is detained by Israeli police forces after protesting at Ben-Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv, Israel Friday, July 8, 2011. Scores of pro-Palestinian protesters trying to reach Israel were blocked at airports in Europe and two American activists who arrived in Israel were deported early Friday, Israeli officials said, after Israel increased security at the airport ahead of the activists' arrival and asked foreign airlines to prevent blacklisted travelers from boarding Israel-bound flights. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Some 120 foreign activists were being held in Israeli jails Saturday, awaiting deportation, after arriving at Tel Aviv's airport over the weekend as part of a solidarity mission with the Palestinians.

Others who managed to get through Israeli border controls traveled to the West Bank where they joined a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier. Associated Press Television footage showed some foreign activists, along with Palestinians, cutting threw the barrier's barbed wire fence with clippers.

One of the activists, Michael Berg, 36, from St. Louis, said he attended the protest but was not involved in the vandalism. Organizers said a small number of the foreigners who participated in cutting the fence were among those who had flown in on the solidarity mission, while others had arrived in the West Bank previously.

Israel had previously expressed concern about the "fly-in," saying it feared some of those trying to reach the West Bank would engage in violence.

Initially, some 600 foreign activists planned to fly to Tel Aviv over the weekend for what they said would be a peaceful mission in the West Bank. Israel controls all access to the West Bank, and those trying to reach it have to enter through Israeli-held crossings.

Israel took a series of measures to try to avert the mass arrival and weed out those it considered troublemakers. Israeli authorities compiled a blacklist with more than 300 names and asked foreign airlines to block those on the list from boarding Tel Aviv-bound flights. Hundreds more landed at Tel Aviv's airport over the weekend, and more than 400 were questioned by police, said Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad.

Of those, 130 were detained and six sent home immediately, she said. Another four signed forms promising not to participate in violent activities and were granted entry to Israel, she said. Haddad said all those currently in detention were offered to be released if they signed the forms.

The remaining 120 are being held at two Israeli jails, Haddad said.