Israeli security forces said on Tuesday they had begun preparations for a “fly-in” of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists expected to arrive at Ben Gurion airport this weekend.
“We have made arrangements and are prepared for this operation, which is expected to begin from Sunday,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, without giving further details.
Hundreds of activists mainly from European countries are expected to try to fly into Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, with the goal of travelling to the Palestinian West Bank.
The so-called “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, which has been dubbed a “flytilla,” is taking place for the third year.
In 2010, organizers said around 100 activists were able to arrive without incident and travel to the West Bank, access to which is controlled by Israel.
But last year, Israel worked with airlines to prevent hundreds of activists from boarding planes bound for Ben Gurion, and detained and later deported others who managed to arrive.
Israel’s public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Monday supervised a meeting of the security forces that will be in charge of the operation at Ben Gurion, including airport authorities, immigration officials and police.
“No provocation will be tolerated,” Israeli media quoted him telling his forces. “As any other country would do, Israel will stop hostile elements from entering its territory.”
Israeli media said security forces estimate some 2,500 activists will try to arrive at Ben Gurion, though the “Welcome to Palestine” organizers said last month they were expecting around 1,500.
Israel has reportedly already contacted various airlines to request that they block activists from boarding flights.
Those who arrive are expected to be arrested by dozens of police deployed at their airport, Israeli radio reported.
The campaign’s organizers in the West Bank say they want to publicize Israel’s control of movement into and out of the Palestinian territory.
“There is no way into Palestine other than through Israeli control points,” the organizers said in a mission statement. “Israel has turned Palestine into a giant prison, but prisoners have a right to receive visitors.”