England

Israel airport arrests: South East families await news

Families of campaigners held in Israel on their way to a protest in Bethlehem are awaiting news of their fate.

Two people from Sussex and another from Kent are among 12 who were detained at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on Friday.

The campaigners were planning to join a week of events in support of Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israeli radio reported that the UK group and more than 100 other detainees would be deported in the next few days.

The 12 from the UK include retired university lecturer John Lynes, 83, from St Leonards, in East Sussex; Audrey Gray, 77, a retired nurse, from West Chiltington, West Sussex, and Val Kitchen, 68, from Tonbridge, Kent.

'Handcuffed and shackled'

They were planning to visit the West Bank at the invitation of families there for what the Welcome to Palestine campaign group said was a week of peaceful activities.

According to Israeli radio, visitors held by the authorities were detained at Eyla and Giv'on Prisons

Sofiah Macleod, secretary of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which was co-ordinating the British involvement, said she had been told by consular staff that the the arrests had been "quite rough" and that the group had been handcuffed and shackled.

She said they had an Israeli lawyer, who had visited them, as had a Consul representative.

"They are all fine," she said. But she added: "It isn't a very nice situation. It is quite hot over there.

Mr Lynes, who has visited the region for similar campaigns, is a man of strong convictions, his family say.

His daughter, Margaret, said: "He is very passionate about what he does. He is very clear that there are risks involved; there are dangers."

And his brother, Tony, added: "I'm proud of him. He is doing something I couldn't do."

Israeli public radio reported on Sunday that according to intelligence information, groups had arrived in Israel were planning to disrupt public order and would be deported "in the next few days".

The Foreign Office said it was endeavouring to retain contact with the British nationals to provide assistance.

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