Israel deports last of flotilla activists
Jerusalem - Israel has deported the last of the international flotilla activists detained nearly a week ago for trying to break the Israeli naval blockade on Gaza, an official told AFP on Friday.
According to interior ministry spokesperson Sabine Hadad, 21 men and women were put on flights home in groups between Thursday morning and Friday afternoon.
The 21 were among 27 passengers and crew aboard two ships intercepted by the Israeli navy as they tried to run the blockade of the Gaza Strip last week.
Israeli commandos boarded the Irish-flagged Saoirse (Freedom) and the Canadian ship Tahrir (Liberation) in international waters off Gaza on November 4 before the navy escorted them to the port of Ashdod.
Six passengers were released on Saturday - an Arab-Israeli, two Greek crewmen, and three journalists from Egypt, Spain and the United States.
The activists had been held pending proceedings against their deportation before an Israeli judge.
According to Hadad, the activists could have been deported earlier in the week once they had appeared before the judge, but some tried to be "wise guys".
"Some raised demands as to the flights they would receive, some wanted to travel business class," she said. Israel bought the deportees their plane tickets.
On Wednesday European parliament president Jerzy Buzek called on Israel to "quickly" release Paul Murphy, an Irish Socialist Party member, and other Europeans detained with him near Tel Aviv.
The Israeli mission in Brussels said that following his arrest last week, Murphy had been offered the possibility to leave Israel by signing a waiver within 72 hours, but the lawmaker refused.
Israel says its blockade is necessary to prevent weapons from entering the coastal territory, which is run by the Islamist Hamas movement.
Two months ago, a UN report on the flotilla raid accused the Jewish state of acting with "excessive force" but found that its naval blockade was legal.