12 held ahead of Bethlehem visit

South Wales Guardian: Israeli police officers at Ben Gurion airport, Israel, where 12 British people have been detained Israeli police officers at Ben Gurion airport, Israel, where 12 British people have been detained

Twelve British people have been detained in Israel while making an attempt to visit the West Bank town of Bethlehem, according to campaigners.

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which was co-ordinating the British arm of the visit, said its chairman Mick Napier, 64, a university teacher, was amongst four Scots arrested at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport.

The flight also included five English and three Welsh people.

The campaign said the specific charges against them is still unclear. Around 700 people from around the world had intended to visit Bethlehem on the invitation of families there.

Sofiah Macleod, the UK-based contact for the campaign, said: "I spoke to consular staff this morning who told me that the arrest was quite rough. They were all handcuffed and shackled and put into vans after standing around for quite a long time, and you can see from their ages that a lot of them are retired. Otherwise they`re all fine."

She said that travel to the West Bank is theoretically open to British passport holders, unlike Gaza which is currently under Israeli blockade.

Frank Thomas, 66, a retired statistician from Edinburgh; Ian Stewart-Hargreaves, who lives on Isle of Lewis; and Joy Cherkaoui, a community worker from Dumfries and Galloway, were also amongst the Scots.

The English passengers were John Lynes, 83, a retired university lecturer from East Sussex; Audrey Gray, 77, a retired nurse from West Chiltington; Val Kitchen, 68, from Tonbridge; Anne Gray, 66, a retired academic from London; and Les Levidow, 61, an Open University research fellow who works in Milton Keynes.

The three Welsh passengers were Pippa Bartolotti, 57, deputy leader of the Wales Green Party; Dee Murphy, 56, from Swansea, founder member of Swansea Palestine Community Link; and Joyce Giblin. The twelfth passenger Fiona Williams has also been identified as British, although her exact nationality is unknown.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We have received reports of a number of British nationals being detained at the airport in Tel Aviv. We have a consular team at the airport who are seeking access to them to ensure that we can provide the appropriate assistance."

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