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Israel to Deport 124 Pro-Palestinian Activists

Israeli police officers remove a pro-Palestinian Israeli activist during a small demonstration at the arrival terminal in Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, July 8, 2011, in support of a "fly-in" by other pro-Palestinian activists to Tel Aviv

A large group of international activists who organized a "fly-in" to Israel have been ordered to "fly-out".

Israel is deporting more than 120 pro-Palestinian activists who were detained upon arrival at the international airport near Tel Aviv. Israel has been following the group's activities on Facebook, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says "hooligans" are unwelcome.

“People can come here, can go to the Palestinian territories if they wish to do that, and actually people do that all the time; but if they announce in advance that their deliberate purpose is to create disturbances in the airport, outside the airport, on the national territory, in the Palestinian territories, then no, they can't be allowed into the country," he said.

On Friday, more than 200 activists were prevented from boarding Tel Aviv-bound flights in Europe, after Israel sent a blacklist to foreign airlines.

Organizers of the fly-in say they were planning a peaceful solidarity visit to Palestinians in the West Bank, which can only be reached by traveling through Israel. Mazem Kumsia, a West Bank Palestinian who helped plan the visit, says Israeli allegations of hooliganism are nonsense.

"We support non-violence strictly. And we demand all our organizers, all the people who invited the group to adhere to non-violence. We also expect all the people who respond by coming, by being our guests in Palestine, that they commit to non-violence," said Kumsia.

Israeli officials say more than 250 activists not considered troublemakers were allowed into the country. Among them is Fefa Barzellotti who came from England.

"I didn't say, 'Hello, I'm an activist, let me in.' I said, 'I'm coming here to Bethlehem,' and it was as simple as that," said Barzellotti.

Other activists drew attention by writing their destination as "Palestine" on official documents rather than "Israel."

It was another disappointment for pro-Palestinian groups, after an aid flotilla that planned to break the Israeli naval blockade on the Gaza Strip was blocked from leaving ports in Greece. Activists say the flotilla and the fly-in underscore the repressive policies of the Israeli occupation.

But Israel is declaring a public relations victory. It says it prevented two violent provocations aimed at harming the image of the Jewish state.

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