Israel deports activists from Gaza-bound aid flotilla

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jerusalem - Israel started on Wednesday deporting about 250 activists detained from a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the expulsion after a cabinet meeting convened to discuss the repercussions of a Monday showdown between Israeli forces and pro-Palestinian activists on board a Gaza-bound aid convoy.

The decision came as an attempt to defuse pressure from the international community after the deadly confrontation. The United Nations and a number of countries have urged Israel to free all civilians arrested.

Israeli navy commandos early Monday morning raided the international aid flotilla and clashed with activists on one of the ships. Nine civilians were killed in the incident and dozens were injured, including seven Israeli soldiers.

The six-vessel flotilla, aiming at focusing world attention on the plight of the Gazans, consists of some 10 000 tons of aid, as well as hundreds of activists from over 40 countries.

The aid ships, commandeered by the Israeli navy, have been docked at the Ashdod Port in southern Israel since Monday afternoon. The Israeli Population and Immigration Authority questioned 679 activists from the flotilla as of Tuesday morning.

Earlier Tuesday, Jordan and Israel agreed that some 124 detainees with Arab nationalities would be released immediately and be returned to their countries via Jordan.

An Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabin Hadad told Xinhua that 45 activists, mostly European, had chosen to board flights and immediately return to their countries. Many others, who refused to fly back to their countries of origin, are detained at an Israeli prison.

Meanwhile, the South African Department of International Relations on Tuesday confirmed Radio 786 journalist Khadija Davids was alive.

Davids was part of a mission to take medical and food supplies to Gaza.

Spokesperson Saul Molibi told BuaNews they were speaking to their missions abroad to get more information about Davids' whereabouts.

"As soon as we get any confirmation from our mission we should be able to communicate this first to the family and also to the general public," said Molibi.