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Israel may force Hamas officials out

Israel may force Hamas officials out

Israel's Supreme Court launched deliberations yesterday on a petition by four senior Hamas officials against Israel's decision to revoke their status as residents of Jerusalem.
Israel meted out the unprecedented punishment after the officials refused to renounce their membership in Hamas, the militantly anti-Israel group that swept Palestinian parliamentary elections in January.
Three were arrested in June and remain in custody under a wider Israeli roundup of Hamas political officials after Hamas-linked militants captured an Israeli soldier. A fourth is currently in Jordan.
To the West Bank
Without the residency permits, the four - Khaled Abu Arafa, the Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, and lawmakers Mohammed Abu Teir, Mohammed Totach and Ahmed Abu Atoun, now in Jordan - would likely be forced out of their homes and into the West Bank.
The court did not rule on their petition yesterday. Lawyers said they expected the proceedings to take months.
"We think that the Interior Ministry does not have the authority to revoke residency status in east Jerusalem," said Osama al-Saadi, a lawyer for the officials. Saadi said he expected the court to reject the government's argument that the officials should be stripped of their residency on the ground they were disloyal to the state.
, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed.
Most Jerusalem Palestinians hold permanent residency cards, having rejected Israel's offer of citizenship. Accepting citizenship would be tantamount to accepting the annexation, and Palestinians want to establish the capital of their future state in east Jerusalem.
The Israeli identity cards have become increasingly valuable to Palestinians because of growing Israeli travel restrictions and the construction of a separation barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The four Hamas officials were among more than 60 Israel arrested after the June 25 capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit.
They've been charged with membership and activity in an outlawed organization, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. But the arrests were widely viewed as an Israeli effort to collect bargaining chips to force militants to release Shalit.
Avoiding civil war
With the Palestinians verging on civil war and the moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in need of a political boost against his Hamas rivals, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appears to have backed down from his demand that Shalit be freed before Palestinian prisoners are released.
On Sunday, he indicated to Cabinet that he might free some of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners Israel holds by the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha on Saturday, a participant in the Cabinet meeting said.
It is not clear whether Hamas political leaders would be among those freed if such a release takes place.


Updated : 2021-08-04 10:07 GMT+08:00