Israel Deports 8 Palestinians
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel deported eight Palestinians from the occupied territories Thursday, disregarding demands by the United States and international organizations that it stop.
The army said they were leaders of the uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The deportations brought to 55 the number of Palestinians sent into exile since the rebellion began Dec. 8, 1987. At least four other cases are pending.
At U.N. headquarters in New York, Secretary-general Javier Perez de Cuellar said he was ″greatly dismayed″ by the Israeli action.
Adam Shub, a State Department spokesman, said in Washington: ″We are strongly opposed to deportations. We have ... spoken to ... Israel many times about this. It is fully aware of our views.″
He said deportations are especially harmful now while the Bush administration seeks support for an Israeli proposal to hold elections among Palestinian Arabs in the occupied lands.
Twenty right-wing members of Israel’s parliament hiked into the West Bank a day ahead of 50 marches planned by Jewish settlers for Friday to dramatize their claim to the territory, part of the biblical land of Israel. Two dozen soldiers guarded them and no incidents were reported.
The umbrella group for settlers called Gush Emunim, or Bloc of the Faithful, said the hikes were an effort to counter the revolt. About 1.7 million Palestinians and 70,000 settlers live in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel captured from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 war.
Gush Emunim said: ″The terrorists and instigators will not frighten us off, neither from the roads nor from the hiking trails of Israel.″
Residents of the territories held a general strike Thursday to protest settler attacks on Palestinians, which have increased in recent weeks. Scattered confrontations with Israeli soldiers were reported, and Arab hospital officials said 13 Palestinians were wounded by army gunfire.
At least 538 Palestinians and 23 Israelis have been killed in more than 18 months of revolt in the occupied lands. More than 8,000 Palestinians have been wounded.
Army spokesmen reported Thursday that soldiers demolished the homes of three murder suspects in the Gaza Strip and four houses in the West Bank belonging to Palestinians accused of bomb attacks.
The International Committee of the Red Cross contends deportations contravene the Geneva convention on treatment of people in occupied territory, which Israel has signed.
Israel says the convention permits selective deportations ″in extreme cases.″
An army communique said the eight Palestinians deported were ″leaders of the uprising in the territories and outstanding activists″ of Fatah, the guerrilla group led by PLO chairmanb Yasser Arafat, and of the Syria-based Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Expulsion orders for all of them were issued in August, but were not carried out until the Supreme Court heard appeals by some of the Palestinians. All the appeals were rejected.
Lebanese police said the deportees, four each from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, were flown by helicopter to Israel’s ″security zone″ in south Lebanon and driven to the Zommaraya crossing, a gateway between the border strip and the rest of the country.
Among those deported Thursday were two prominent West Bank labor union activists, Mohammed Abdullah Labadi, 34, and Radwan Ahmad Zayad, 31, and Abu Karesh, 50, a Gaza City teacher.
Efforts are under way in Israel to speed the expulsion process. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin has asked that deportations be allowed before completion of the appeals process.