A group of 90 Muslim Turkish nationals were deeply disappointed when they arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport on Sunday and discovered they were not able to enter Israel because they had not arranged visas before boarding the plane.
Sila Tur travel agency officer Musa Biçkioğlu told the Turkish Milliyet website that he had brought a group visa from the Israeli Consulate for the tour when they arrived in Tel Aviv from Istanbul at around 9:30 am local time, as he had with previous trips to Jerusalem.
“Tour companies who bring tourists to Jerusalem don’t usually bring separate visas for each passenger,” he said. Instead, group visas provided by the Consulate replace the visas for all the passengers.”
This time, however, 90 passengers were not allowed to enter Israel because they had no individual visas, he said, adding there was no explanation for the change.
Until recently, Israelis needed no visa to enter Turkey, and vice versa. But in the past year Israeli diplomats have been severely harassed while moving through Turkish airports. Moreover, Turkish Muslims have been involved on several occasions with Palestinian Authority incitement against Israel emanating from the Al Aqsa mosque.
According to the report, the group’s itinerary included a visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“Because of Israel’s stance, our dreams were destroyed,” said one of the passengers who were sent back to Turkey on a return flight. The Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv was in contact with the passengers throughout the incident, according to the report.