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Immigration: Israel to expel 120 activists

July 9, 2011 12:57 P.M. (Updated: July 11, 2011 3:11 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel is preparing to expel 120 mostly European activists jailed after having managed to arrive on flights to the country as part of a pro-Palestinian protest, an official said Saturday.

But immigration service spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said four activists from Germany and Holland were authorized to stay after giving a written commitment "not to provoke disorder" and "to avoid places of (Israeli-Palestinian) confrontation."

The 120 others will be expelled "as soon as there are places on appropriate flights," she said, adding that because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, "there are not a lot of flights and this could take a bit of time."

She said most of the activists were French, with the others being American, Belgian, Bulgarian, Dutch and Spanish.

While awaiting expulsion, they are being held at two Israeli jails -- one in Ramleh near Tel Aviv and the other at Beersheva in southern Israel's Negev desert.

The activists held in Beersheva refused to sign a pledge, while those in Beersheva were to be given the same option and expelled if they chose to refuse to make such a commitment.

"They are receiving the same correct treatment as all other prisoners," prisons authority spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said.

The activists were participating in the "Welcome to Palestine" campaign, which some have called the "flytilla," in which up to 800 activists were to fly in on a peaceful mission to visit Palestinian families.

Israeli authorities said they largely managed to pre-empt the campaign by foreign activists demonstrating for the right of access to the occupied West Bank.

Officials said that by notifying foreign airlines of ticket-holders who would not be admitted to Israel they had prevented hundreds from boarding at their ports of departure.

The "flytilla" took place as a flotilla of ships was being prevented by Greece from sailing to the Gaza Strip in a bid to break the Israeli blockade on the Palestinian territory.

Israeli news website Ynet said on Saturday that around 50 European pro-Palestinian activists who succeeded in breaching the checks at Ben Gurion Airport on Friday had crossed into the West Bank.

Some 150 Palestinians and foreign activists protesting near the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem in the West Bank on Saturday were met with tear-gas grenades by the Israeli military, Ynet added.

A military spokeswoman said "the army dispersed protesters in Qalandiya and closed the checkpoint briefly."
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