Israel deported 18 Palestinians today who were among a group of 1,150 Arab prisoners released in May in a controversial exchange. It was the first expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip since the government's deportation policy was suspended five years ago.
The Army command said those expelled into Jordan today were among 21 released prisoners who infiltrated into the West Bank from Jordan during or after the 1967 Middle East war and could not produce residency permits issued to all Arabs in the occupied territories after the war. A military source said that 10 more originally scheduled to be deported last month were able to prove residency in the territories and that the cases of three others are still under appeal to the Israeli High Court of Justice.
The High Court rejected on Thursday the appeals of 11 of the former prisoners who were expelled today. Seven others deported today had not appealed.
The Palestinians were put across the border into Jordan at Ain Hasab, an expanse of sand about 100 miles south of Amman, The Associated Press reported. Leah Tsemel, a lawyer for eight of the men, said the site probably was chosen because Jordan had not officially agreed to accept the deported prisoners.
[Jordanian and Israeli troops stood on sand dunes on each side of the frontier as the 18 men, carrying one suitcase each, trudged down a sandy incline, past barbed wire fences and into Jordan, where Jordanian soldiers met them and then drove them to the village of Bir Madhkhour, where they were given water and talked with reporters.]
All 18 had said they were bona fide residents of the West Bank or Gaza Strip before the 1967 war and have families in the occupied territories. Some said they had been employed in the Persian Gulf region or elsewhere when the war broke out and had returned home when they could.
Military officials said, however, that many of them had been imprisoned for "severe security offenses."
The 1,150 Palestinian prisoners were released in May in exchange for three Israeli soldiers who had been held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982.
The deported Palestinians had argued that their planned expulsions violated the prisoner exchange agreement and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and that the requirement for residency permits was a mask for the Army's intentions to deport nationalistic Arabs from the occupied territories.
Israeli officials have said that all 31 selected for deportation last month had been told upon their release that unless they could prove their residency in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, they would not be permitted to remain.
The Army command said they were allowed to stay this long because the International Red Cross had declared that they were stateless and had no place to go.
Before May 1980, Israel deported Palestinians for subversive activities regularly, but the practice was stopped following court appeals after the deportation of Hebron Mayor Fahd Kawasme and Halhoul Mayor Mohammed Milhelm.
Last month the Army ordered the deportation of Khalil Abu Ziad, whom security authorities identified as a West Bank commander of Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Abu Ziad appealed but agreed to accept a three-year voluntary exile and went to Jordan. A military review board had recommended that the deportation be reconsidered because it could not be proved that he engaged in terrorism.