Wales

Three Welsh Palestinian activists home after protest

Fiona Williams
Image caption Fiona Williams from Swansea was on hunger strike for 48 hours

Three of the four Welsh women detained in Israel as part of a so-called "flytilla" protest are back home.

They had been held at a detention centre south of Tel Aviv since arriving at Ben Gurion Airport last Friday.

The remaining protester, Dee Murphy from Swansea, is still in Israel but it is hoped she will return later on Thursday.

Shortly before their release, the Israeli embassy said authorities were looking after those being held.

Other UK protesters were deported but the Welsh women had initially refused, saying they had done nothing wrong.

The activists had planned to attend West Bank events in support of Palestinians but were detained.

Some of the protesters, including Fiona Williams, 46, and Ms Murphy, 56, both from the Swansea Palestine group, went on hunger strike after they say they were prevented from making phone calls.

They accepted food again after 48 hours when they were allowed to call home.

Ms Williams said after returning home: "I'm glad we did what we did.

"I don't feel we got anywhere because they [the Israeli authorities] seem to be a law onto themselves.

"We went to test our right to visit people in Palestine - we were invited as friends - and we weren't able to do that."

Pippa Bartolotti, 57, deputy leader of the Wales Green Party, and Joyce Giblin, a member of the Socialist Labour Party from Newport, were also detained on Friday.

Speaking from the plane at Ben Gurion airport, Ms Bartolotti said she had bruises and had been handcuffed "very roughly" shortly after her arrival.

She said the group had been treated badly and were asked to sign a statement that was written only in Hebrew.

Earlier, Amir Ofek, spokesman for the Israeli embassy in the UK, said of the protest: "The Israeli authorities went beyond basic necessities in ensuring the comfort of those being held, providing regular contact with their families at home, and issuing passengers with any medication that they might need.

"Consular support from the British embassy was immediately requested, in the form of visits from British staff."

He said Israel was a democratic country where heated debates occurred every hour of the day across a range of issues.

"They do not take place however in an airport, one of the most sensitive buildings in the country, where the security threat is real. No other state would tolerate this and neither will we," he added.

The timing of the action, as a flotilla of ships trying to break a blockade on the Gaza Strip was prevented from leaving Greece, led some to call it a "flytilla".

Organisers denied the protest was linked to the attempt to break the blockade.

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