The two Fairfax journalists held in Israeli prisons since Monday are among 618 foreign detainees who have been or are being deported from Israel.
Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty - journalists with The Sydney Morning Herald - were taken by Israeli authorities to a Turkish military plane at Tel Aviv, due to arrive in Istanbul this morning (Australian time). The Herald's editor Peter Fray and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed late last night that McGeough and Geraghty were on the buses being driven to Ben Gurion Airport.
[UPDATE, 11:30AM AEST | The plane on which McGeough and Geraghty were being transported has now arrived in Istanbul. AAP reports that the journalists were "in good spirits" upon arrival.]
The Fairfax journalists' deportations took place despite McGeough telling Irish and Australian consular officials that he would seek to appeal against deportation orders issued against him by Israeli authorities.
The legal position of the deported detainees is not yet entirely clear. McGeough spoke to the Herald last night from one of the planes taking the released detainees, and said that he had been told of the possibility of mounting a legal challenge from abroad.
"We are leaving Israel on legal advice that we will be able to appeal our deportation in absentia," he said.
According to the Herald, Israel's High Court of Justice - designated as the body that hears matters relating to decisions by government agencies - only agreed to hear challenges to the deportation orders two hours before the planned departure of the planes.
A lawyer hired by the Herald said that officials at the prison had prevented her from gaining access to McGeough and Geraghty before they were removed from the facility and transported to the airport.
Both journalists rejected an initial offer when first taken into custody on Monday, which would have resulted in their immediate deportation if they signed statements admitting that they had entered the country illegally. The immediate deportation would also have prevented them from entering Israel for ten years.
The pair was travelling as part of a flotilla organised by pro-Palestinian activists to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. At least nine people were killed when Israeli forces intercepted the flotilla, sparking condemnation from many countries, including Israel's main strategic ally in the Muslim world, Turkey.
[UPDATE, 2:20PM AEST | Paul McGeough has told the Herald that Israel's conduct was an "absolute disrespect". Read the full report here.]
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