By Hossam Ezzedine, AFP – 21 April 2010
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Israel deported a Palestinian prisoner to the Gaza Strip instead of releasing him to his West Bank home, the man and Palestinian officials said, charging Israel with using controversial new military orders.
The prisoner, Ahmad Sabah, 40, was refusing to leave the Palestinian side of the main crossing between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
“It is inhumane what they are doing. He has no connection to Gaza, no relatives there, nothing,” said Issa Qaraqi, the minister of prisoner affairs in the government of the Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Qaraqi claimed Israel was implementing a new set of military orders that critics fear could lead to mass deportations from the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment.
Sabah was a member of the Palestininan security forces and was arrested in 2001 for security offences against Israel, AFP’s correspondent said.
Israel denies it plans to carry out mass expulsions, saying the new orders that came into effect last week concern only people staying in the West Bank illegally and that the changes will allow oversight of deportation orders.
Family members said Sabah was born in Jordan and since returning to the West Bank had lived in the town of Tulkarem with his wife and family. However, his ID document was issed in Gaza.
They said they were waiting for him to be released on Wednesday at a West Bank crossing, when other prisoners said he had been sent to Gaza.
Sabah was refusing to leave the Erez crossing into Gaza.
“It is my right to return to my wife and family,” he told AFP.
The orders have sparked widespread condemnation from Palestinians and across the Arab world.
Earlier this week Abbas vowed to confront them.
“Israel has no right to deport any Palestinian, and the Palestinian Authority will not allow it and will confront it with various means,” he said, quoted by Egypt’s official news agency MENA, without elaborating.
The move has been condemned in the Arab world at a time when peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel are locked in a dispute over Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
On April 13, the Cairo-based Arab League called on the Palestinians to refuse to heed the amended orders from the Israeli military that could trigger the West Bank deportations.
Earlier on Wednesday, the rival Palestinian movements Hamas and Fatah took part in a joint demonstration against the orders, reuniting for the first time since their violent 2007 split.
Hundreds of Gazans as well as representatives of all Palestinian factions — including the Islamist Hamas movement and secular Fatah — attended the rally near the Erez crossing.
“Hand in hand against the Zionist decision to expel Palestinians from the West Bank,” read one of the signs carried by the protestors.
Israel captured the West Bank, including east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. It is expected to form the main part of the Palestinians’ promised future state.
The Israeli military can issue its own orders in the West Bank, but these can be overturned by the government or by Israeli courts.