Israeli gov't preparing for pro-Palestinian fly-in

09:40, July 05, 2011      

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Israeli government officials on Monday are preparing for the possibility of hundreds of Palestinian supporters landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Israel's major airport, this coming Friday.

Several Palestinian NGOs have invited activists to visit the West Bank to take part in "Welcome to Palestine" week events.

While the organizers said in a press release that the visitors will "tell the truth, that our plan is to visit Palestine," they were also warned that "Israel frequently denies entrance to those suspected of visiting Palestine."

"We invited these people to come and visit us in Palestine," Mazen Qumsiyeh, one of the visit organizers told Xinhua on Monday, "and they are coming in peace without any violent attitude towards Israel, so I believe the Israeli government should understand this and let them through."

Qumsiyeh said that there are around 600 to 800 people who are planning to fly to Ben-Gurion on Friday.

The Israeli Ministry of Interior, Transport, Public Security and Defense held an urgent meeting on Monday to discuss the matter and draw up a plan of action. Ministry of Transportation Spokesman Avner Ovadia refused to comment to Xinhua on the outcome of the session.

However, a source close to the Israeli cabinet said that, though the exact number of those heading for Israel remains unclear, the Israeli government is preparing to deal with demonstrations at the airport that may disrupt operations.

According to the source, it was decided on Sunday that flights arriving from Europe will be transferred to another location, and will be checked thoroughly to prevent members of pro-Palestinian organizations from entering Israel.

Qumsiyeh told Xinhua that, if any participants of the events are stopped at the airport, they will provide them with legal assistance. "We will have representatives at the airport to help them," he said.

"This activity doesn't have anything to do with the Gaza flotilla," Qumsiyeh stressed, adding that "we have been planning this for months. The Gaza flotilla and the 'Welcome to Palestine' week are two separate initiatives."

Qumsiyeh said that if the invitees manage to reach the West Bank, they will participate in cultural activities and trips.

"Our intention is to show them Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem and show them the Palestinian culture, because for many of them it would be their first time here," he said.

Source: Xinhua
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