JERUSALEM (AP) _ An Israeli court sentenced four Palestinians to life in prison Tuesday for last December's slaying of three police officers. The killings sparked a mass deportation of Arabs.

The Jerusalem District Court sentenced Mahmoud Issam, Majd Abu Kdish, Mahmoud Atoun and Mussa el Ahari to three consecutive life sentences for killing policemen Nissim Toledano, Mordechai Israel and Daniel Hazut last December, Israel army radio reported.

Six troopers were killed that month, prompting Israel to deport 400 Palestinians belonging to banned Muslim fundamentalist groups. Most of the 400 remain stranded in a tent-camp in southern Lebanon, and will only be permitted to return in December.

The move was condemned by Arab negotiators, and the U.S.-backed Middle East peace talks were stalled until March as a result.

The four men, all members of the armed wing of the banned Hamas fundamentalist movement, immediately confessed to the charges.

Prior to sentencing, Mahmoud Issam asked to make a statement, army radio said. He held up a copy of the Koran and pronounced that the Moslem holy book had commanded him to carry out the killings as part of the holy war against the Israeli occupier, the radio said.