Last updated: 6 December, 2011

Israel expels Hamas MP from Jerusalem

Israel on Tuesday expelled a senior Hamas MP from Jerusalem to the West Bank city of Ramallah on the grounds of illegal residency.

Ahmed Atun was arrested on September 26 after spending more than a year living inside the east Jerusalem headquarters of the Red Cross in order to avoid being expelled to the West Bank by the Israeli authorities.

After spending more than two months in jail, Atun was back in court on Tuesday with magistrates ordering him to leave the city, his lawyer Fadi Qawasmeh told AFP.

“Ahmed Atun was arrested in September and the court indicted him for living in Jerusalem without a permit,” he said, indicating the MP had been sentenced to 70 days in jail.

“Since he has already spent 70 days in jail, they have decided to deport him to the West Bank,” he said.

An AFP correspondent confirmed Atun’s arrival in Ramallah later on Tuesday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross condemned Atun’s transfer, calling it a violation of international law.

“Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits Israel, regardless of its motive, from forcibly transferring Palestinians and the ICRC urges the Israeli authorities to rescind the order to expel M. Atun,” the organisation said in a statement.

Atun is one of four senior Hamas officials whom Israel has been seeking to expel, sparking concern among Palestinians across east Jerusalem about their future residency status.

The first to be deported was Hamas MP Mohammed Abu Teir, who was deported from Jerusalem exactly a year ago for entering the city despite the withdrawal of his residency permit.

The other two — former Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh and MP Mohammed Totah — are still holed up inside the Red Cross compound hoping to avoid arrest.

Many Palestinians fear their expulsion could set a precedent for the removal of the 270,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem who need Israeli-issued residence permits in order to travel freely in Israel and the West Bank.

Israel occupied the eastern sector of the city in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

It regards the whole of Jerusalem as its “eternal, indivisible” capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as capital of their promised state.