LOD, Israel (AFP) — Squads of Israeli police were deployed at Tel Aviv airport on Wednesday, anticipating the arrival of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, a police spokesman said.
“There are a hundred police from different units who are on standby and will make sure there won’t be any incidents at the airport,” Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
“They’re on standby to deal with the possibility of activists and extremists arriving from overseas.”
Pro-Palestinian activists from the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign have said they plan to arrive in their hundreds at Ben Gurion airport on Friday to protest against Israeli restrictions on the Palestinians’ freedom of movement, and that of their international supporters.
“Nearly 600 women, men and children, among whom more than 350 French citizens, will fly to the West Bank next Friday, July 8, in answer to a call from 15 West Bank Palestinian civil society organizations,” the group said on its website.
“The aim is to show that, if our governments do not seem to be interested in the fate of these people who have been under occupation for far too long, there are men and women from all countries, who are ready to bring them moral support, using a week of their holidays to go and meet them.”
Israeli public radio said the authorities suspected that advance groups could arrive as early as Wednesday and its reporter at the airport said he had seen large numbers of police there, including members of the anti-terrorist squad.
“It’s an unusual sight to see so many police from so many different units at Ben Gurion airport,” he said.
“They are spread out in positions from the runway to the baggage retrieval area, and in the arrivals area at Terminal 3, there are dozens of uniformed police.”
An AFP correspondent at the scene saw only a handful of border police, and the police spokesman described the report as exaggerated.
“Police are in the airport but not in the large numbers referred to,” he said.
Ahead of his morning departure for Romania, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was briefed at the airport by the internal security minister and the national police chief on preparations for the protest.
“I have ordered our forces to enforce international law,” the radio quoted him as saying. “Every state has the right to protect itself from those seeking to disturb order in its territory.”
Earlier this week, media reports suggested that all flights arriving from Europe on Friday would be directed to a separate terminal and their passengers carefully screened.
As well as a large number of French nationals, there will also be activists from Britain, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the United States, organizers say.