New Israeli military order could increase expulsions of West Bank Palestinians

Amnesty International has said it is concerned that a new Israeli military order could facilitate the expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank.Military Order No. 1650, which came into force in the West Bank on 13 April, broadens the definition of the term “infiltrator” to include anyone present in the West Bank without a permit issued by the Israeli authorities.Those considered “infiltrators” can be deported to other states or forcibly transferred to the Gaza Strip, and face criminal charges. In a letter to Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday, Amnesty International said that it feared this broad definition could facilitate the expansion of the Israeli authorities’ current practice of expelling individuals from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip”This new military order is scandalous in the light of the Israeli authorities’ long-standing practice of expelling individuals from the West Bank,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa programme.”Since 2003 Israel has forcibly relocated Palestinians living in the West Bank to the Gaza Strip on the basis that their addresses were registered in Gaza.”On 28 October 2009, Israeli forces in the West Bank detained Berlanty Azzam, a 21-year-old Palestinian student, who was weeks away from graduating from Bethlehem University. She was handcuffed, blindfolded and forcibly transferred to Gaza.On 9 December 2009, the Israeli High Court of Justice decided not to allow Berlanty to return to Bethlehem University to complete her studies.Israel’s argument centred on the Gaza address registered on her identity card and its claim that the permit she acquired to travel to the West Bank from Gaza in 2005 was insufficient.”We are also concerned that the broadened category of ‘infiltrator’ may also be applied to individuals who entered the West Bank many years ago and have filed applications with the Israeli authorities for family unification,” said Philip Luther. “To our knowledge, thousands of such applications remain outstanding.”  Since June 2007, the Gaza Strip has been under a tight Israeli blockade which restricts the entry of basic goods, including food, fuel, educational and medical items, and construction materials.The forcible transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza, as well as the deportation of Palestinians to other states, is a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which states: “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”The Israeli authorities have also deported Palestinians from the West Bank to other countries in the past.In 1992, 415 people suspected of involvement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad were illegally deported by Israel to Lebanon. Then in 2002, Israel deported 13 Palestinians involved in the siege of the Church of the Nativity to European states, with a further 26 being forcibly transferred to Gaza.