Cyprus deports 29 Israelis trying to holiday in north

NICOSIA (AFP) – A group of 29 Israeli tourists were deported from Cyprus on Friday, hours after being stopped trying to cross over to the Turkish-held north for a holiday, police said. Cypriot authorities deported the Israelis yesterday morning after their coach was intercepted attempting to cross over into the Turkish-Cypriot north for a pre-booked package holiday they had not declared on arrival. The travel group had stated on arrival in Cyprus that they would be staying in the Greek-Cypriot resort of Ayia Napa, when in fact they had booked a stay in the north, police said. Police became suspicious of their intentions, and the coach party was stopped soon after missing the turn for Ayia Napa after leaving the airport shortly before midnight on Thursday. It is against the law for foreign visitors to declare a bogus address on entering the eastern Mediterranean island, which is a favourite holiday destination for tourists from nearby Israel. This is not the first time that Israeli tourists have been deported for trying to cross over for an undeclared holiday in the breakaway north. More than a 100 have been kicked out for similar offenses since July. Many Israelis are said to be attracted to the north due to its countless casinos offering special packages for Israeli punters, in contrast to the Greek-Cypriot south, which enforces tough anti-gambling legislation. But there are no direct flights from Israel to northern Cyprus because the breakaway state is recognized only by Ankara. Visiting the north of the divided island has become much easier for Greek Cypriots and tourists alike since Turkish-Cypriot authorities eased decades-old travel restrictions across the 180-kilometer (112-mile) UN-manned Green Line in April. But there are still certain restrictions in place and even if the Israelis had declared their intention of staying in the north upon their arrival at Larnaca airport in the south, they would not have been permitted to cross the Green Line at the Greek-Cypriot checkpoint. Day trips are allowed but definitely not for gambling purposes.