Israel revokes residency of 140,000 Palestinians living in West Bank 

 

Palestinian refugee Mohamed Harb holds a key he says belongs to a house his family was forced to flee 63 years ago, as he poses for a photograph at his house in the Balata refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday. (Reuters)

By MOHAMMED MAR’I | ARAB NEWS

RAMALLAH: Israel has revoked the residency of 140,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank when they left to travel abroad in the years after the 1967 War, a report said on Wednesday.

The revelation sparked a furious response from the Palestinian Authority, with government spokesman Ghassan Khatib describing the policy as “illegal and inhumane.”

“This policy is part of the Israeli strategy to remove as many Palestinians as possible while moving Israeli citizens into our lands,” he said in a statement.

Senior Palestinian officials slammed Israel for canceling the residency status of 140,000 West Bank Palestinians.

Ahmed Al-Rowaidhi, the chief of Al-Quds Unit at the Palestinian Presidency, said that the Israeli policy since the occupation of West Bank in 1967 until the establishment of Palestinian Authority in 1994 “constitutes a war crime.”

Al-Rowaidhi added, “Israel is carrying out a collective expulsion policy in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to change the demographic balance in the area.”

He added that 70,000 East Jerusalem’s residents lost their residency in the city since 1967.

Sa’eb Erekat, a member of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO’s) Executive Committee, said that the Israeli policy of expulsion aims at “gaining Palestinian land for the expansion of more Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories and to change the demographic composition.”

Erekat added that the Israeli actions “should not only be seen as a war crime as it is under international law; it also has a humanitarian dimension: we are talking about people who left Palestine to study or work temporarily but who could not return to resume their lives in their country with their families.”

The PLO official added that the actions “violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that ‘everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

On early Wednesday, the Israeli daily Haaretz said that Israel has used a covert procedure to cancel the residency status of West Bank Palestinians between 1967 and 1994.

Haaretz said that its report was based on an official Israeli document that was written after the Israeli Center for the Defense of the Individual, Hamoked, filed a request under the Freedom of Information Law.

The document states that the procedure was used on Palestinian residents of the West Bank who traveled abroad between 1967 and 1994. Palestinians who wished to travel abroad via Jordan were ordered to leave their ID cards at the Allenby Bridge border crossing.

According to the document, they exchanged their ID cards for a card allowing them to cross. The card was valid for three years and could be renewed three times, each time adding another year.

If a Palestinian did not return within six months of the card’s expiration, their documents would be sent to the regional census supervisor. Residents who failed to return on time were registered as NLRs — no longer residents. The document makes no mention of any warning or information that the Palestinians received about the process.

Sha’wan Jabarin, the general director of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, said that Israel “implemented a deliberate policy to reduce the number of Palestinian residents in Palestinian territories.”

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