Israeli security forces are on high alert ahead of the arrival of a large group of foreign activists who oppose the occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Israel has beefed up its police presence at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, as hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists plan to fly in to the country. About 600 police officers, undercover agents and paramilitary border guards have been deployed at the facility.
Israeli officials say the activists are planning anti-Israel protests and disruptions at the airport when they arrive on Thursday and Friday aboard international flights. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says some of the activists are “hooligans,” and Israel will take the necessary measures to maintain law and order.
“No country would tolerate foreigners coming into its international airport and then rioting, or running amok, or demonstrating or wreaking havoc on the airport. It's not going to take place,” said Palmor.
The activists insist that their mission is peaceful and that they plan to spend part of their summer vacation in the West Bank to show solidarity with the Palestinians. Neil Neifer is flying in from Europe.
“The very idea that anyone would travel to Ben-Gurion Airport to provoke violence with the Israeli military and police authorities is completely insane,” said Neifer.
The activists say the only airport protest would be to declare they have come to “visit Palestine.” They hope that will draw attention to Israeli policies that often bar foreigners with ties to the Palestinians.
Israel believes that the fly-in was organized after an aid flotilla that planned to bring hundreds of activists to break the Israeli naval blockade on the Gaza Strip was banned from leaving ports in Greece. Activists deny that, saying it is a separate initiative that focuses on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
While most activists are expected to be allowed into Israel, police say suspected “troublemakers” will be denied entry and could be deported or jailed.