By DALE GAVLAK | Associated Press –
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Israeli authorities refused entry on Sunday to about 100 pro-Palestinian activists, including three Americans, attempting to cross overland to the West Bank from Jordan, according to their leader.
French organizer Olivia Zemor of the "Welcome to Palestine" campaign said Israeli authorities asked no questions and stamped "entry denied" into the passports without an explanation.
Israel's Defense Ministry denounced the protesters as "provocateurs and known troublemakers."
Earlier, Zemor told reporters in the Jordanian capital, Amman, that the group aimed to deliver one ton of school supplies to Palestinian children in refugee camps in Bethlehem.
In a statement late Sunday, the Israeli Defense Ministry called the effort a "failed publicity stunt." It said Israel exercised its right to deny them entry.
"There are no restrictions whatsoever on bringing in school supplies," the statement said. "If these activists sincerely wanted to bring in school supplies, they had countless options to do so. There are no shortages of school supplies in the West Bank."
Israel, which controls the Allenby Bridge land crossing, has previously blocked similar protests at its airport near Tel Aviv and seaports near the Gaza Strip.
Zemor said the activists want Israel to grant freedom of movement to the Palestinians and their visitors. Some also demand the lifting of an Israeli blockade on Gaza. She said the group, ranging in age from 10 to 80, was peaceful and unarmed.
She said a few of the protesters tried crossing the bridge but were ordered back to Jordan. She said buses ferrying the protesters were escorted in the direction of the Jordanian capital, Amman, by Jordanian anti-riot police and other security personnel.
The group said it hopes to visit a Palestinian refugee camp near Amman.