Police arrested Hamas official Mohammed Abu Tir on Wednesday for failing to comply with orders to leave his East Jerusalem home. Abu Tir was arrested at the entrance to the city's southeastern Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, and taken for questioning at the Russian Compound police headquarters.
Police are expected to ask a court on Thursday to remand Abu Tir in custody. In early June, Jerusalem police confiscated Abu Tir's Israeli identity card, along with those of three other Hamas legislators - Mohammed Totach, Khaled Abu Arafa, and Ahmed Atoun - giving them until July to leave Jerusalem.Israel had warned the four men in the past to renounce membership of Hamas or risk losing residency rights in East Jerusalem.
All four men were arrested a few months after taking part in the Palestinian national elections in January 2006, writes Jonathan Cook. They remained in jail until recently as “bargaining chips” for the release of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who is being held captive by Hamas. The loss of residency will leave the politicians stateless.
Mahmoud Abbas, the PA's president has condemned the measure and said that he will take the matter up with the US. Hatem Abdel Kader, Fatah’s minister for Jerusalem affairs, was warned this month by the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, that he would have his residency revoked if he continued his political activities in the city.
Hassan Jabareen, the director of the Adalah legal centre for the Arab minority in Israel, said a “very dangerous precedent” was being set. “It is the first time Palestinians in East Jerusalem have had their residency revoked for being ‘disloyal’ and this could be used to expel many other residents whose politics Israel does not like,” he said. Abu Tir, 60, was supposed to leave on June 19, but has so far evaded expulsion. “I will not willingly leave the place my family has lived for 500 years,” he said last week.
Israel has based its decision on the Entry into Israel Law of 1952, which governs the naturalisation process for non-Jews. It allows the interior minister to revoke citizenship and residency in some cases.“The purpose of this law is to oversee the entry into Israel of foreigners,” said Mr Jabareen. “The Palestinians of East Jerusalem did not enter Israel; Israel entered East Jerusalem by occupying it in 1967.”
Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on the human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the expulsion may constitute a war crime.
The revocations of the politicians’ residency comes in the wake of a rapid rise in the number of Palestinians who have been stripped of Jerusalem residency on other grounds, usually because a resident has studied or worked abroad. In 2008, more than 4,500 Palestinians lost their Jerusalem residency, interior ministry figures show. The number has been steadily rising since 1995, when 91 Palestinians were stripped of their rights. According to Israel, a total of 13,000 Palestinians have had their residency revoked since 1967.
The loss of residency is seen by the Palestinians as part of a wider Israeli strategy to weaken their hold on East Jerusalem and its holy sites.