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Israel Blocks Pro-Palestinian Protestors From Entering Country, Deports American Activists

Israel Blocks Pro-Palestinian Protestors From Entering Country, Deports American Activists

Protesters...gathered...and shouted "Boycott Israel."

TEL AVIV, Israel (The Blaze/AP) -- 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. On Thursday, The Blaze first reported on Israel's attempts to block these protestors from reaching the country.

Israel increased security at Ben-Gurion International Airport ahead of the activists' arrival and asked foreign airlines to prevent blacklisted travelers from boarding Israel-bound flights, as hundreds said they would travel to Israel to protest Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

By midday Friday, no disruptions had been reported at the airport.

At Israel's request, several airlines barred about 200 would-be protesters from boarding flights to Israel from Europe, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

"The companies did not allow them on the airplanes because we told them clearly they wouldn't be able to enter Israel," Rosenfeld said.

One of the organizers, French activist Olivia Zemor, said her group planned only nonviolent activities. The group, "Welcome to Palestine," released a statement Friday calling the moves to prevent activists from reaching Israel "provocative, blackmailing and illegal."

At Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, several would-be protesters were turned away from check-in counters on Friday morning.

A list viewed at the airport by The Associated Press read: "Attached is a list of passengers who will be refused entry to Israel."

Protesters subsequently gathered in the terminal and shouted "Boycott Israel," as French police stood by.

Cynthia Beatt, a British citizen living in Germany, told the AP she had been barred from boarding a Lufthansa plane Friday morning in Berlin. She had planned to take part in the protest.

"Lufthansa called me last night and said I would not be allowed to board their plane because Israel denied me entry," Beatt said.

The detailed lists showed that Israel had been tracking the activists. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, police and intelligence units had followed social networks used by the groups organizing the protest.

Organizers of the protest said a total of about 600 people were scheduled to take part, and Israeli officials said they expected more to land later in the day.

Two activists arrived in Israel from Greece overnight and were deported, said Foreign Ministry official Oded Ben-Hur. He identified them as Americans who had initially planned to join a protest flotilla that had intended to sail to the Gaza Strip but was foiled by the Greek government.

Ben-Hur also said an unspecified number of activists had been allowed through the terminal without incident. Israel has not publicized its criteria for denying entry, but has said peaceful visitors will not be deported.

The activists have placed Israel in an awkward position.

Authorities are determined to keep out people they consider hostile agitators, but critics in Israel have said the government's high-profile reaction has only served to draw attention to the activists' attempt to gain publicity.

Israel's concern is rooted in a number of deadly run-ins with pro-Palestinian activists, both on the high seas and along the frontiers with Lebanon and Syria. The best-known, in May 2010, resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists in a clash with Israeli troops aboard a vessel trying to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel now appears intent on averting a new confrontation by preventing activists from reaching the country.

In Paris, eight activists were blocked Thursday from boarding Malev Airlines flights to Budapest en route to Tel Aviv.

One of those turned away, Philippe Arnaud, said Malev showed him a list provided by Israeli authorities of nearly 400 people barred from Israel. German carriers Lufthansa and Air Berlin said they also received similar lists.

Arnaud said he has been investigated in France for his efforts to boycott Israeli products and was once arrested by Israel for organizing a demonstration in the West Bank.

Malev had no comment.

The French Foreign Ministry said it had warned activists of "the risks inherent in this operation." In Germany, Lufthansa said it would comply with the Israeli blacklist.

The activists say they are on a weeklong mission to express solidarity with the Palestinians in the West Bank and draw attention to life under Israeli occupation, including travel restrictions.

Visitors can reach the West Bank only through Israeli-controlled crossings, either through international airports or the land border with Jordan. At any given time, hundreds of foreigners, including activists and aid workers, are in the West Bank.

Citing security concerns, Israel bars most Palestinians from entering Israel or using its airport, meaning they must travel to neighboring Jordan to fly out.

Travel restrictions in the Gaza Strip, ruled by the militant Hamas group, are even more rigorous.

Israel allows few people to cross its border with Gaza, and most Gazans can travel abroad only by crossing into Egypt through their shared border.

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