The Palestinian leadership on Monday protested against Israeli military orders that could see tens of thousands of Palestinians deported from the West Bank.

On Sunday Haaretz revealed that a new military order aimed at preventing infiltration will come into force this week, enabling the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years.

The measure, due to come into force on Tuesday, "threatens the emptying of large areas of land from its Palestinian inhabitants," Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in a statement.

Ten Israeli human rights organizations have appealed to Defense Minister Ehud Barak to freeze the orders, which were issued on October 13, 2009, with the provision they come into force within six months.

The military orders class people living in the West Bank without the proper documentation as "infiltrators".

"The order targets thousands of Palestinians from Gaza who work and live in the West Bank and could lead to their forced deportation to the Gaza Strip," Fayyad said.

Also affected are Palestinians who have identification papers from neighboring countries as well as foreign women married to Palestinians residing in the West Bank.

Fayyad said the measures contradict International Humanitarian Law as well as UN Security Council decisions which condemn forced deportations.

With the measures, Israel "aims at deepening the hold of the occupation in the West Bank and facilitating more Israel land-grab," the prime minister said.

Earlier Monday, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa also condemned the Israeli move, telling reporters in Damascus that "it is hard to establish real peace in the region due to the Israeli measure." His comments followed a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"We reject such measures and we call on the international community to bear responsibility," Moussa said, adding that an Arab League meeting will be held to discuss the situation.

During his earlier meeting with al-Assad, the Arab League chief had discussed the developments in the Palestinian territories as well as the results of last month's Arab League summit.

During the summit, Moussa had urged the 22-nation bloc to talk to Iran to address differences and engage it directly over concerns about its growing influence in the region and its disputed nuclear energy program.

Moussa said that he discussed this initiative with al-Assad, Vice president Farouq al-Sharaa and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. "

I see that there is positive support for the initiative," he said.

Arab states share Western fears that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons. Several states are also opposed to Iran's support of the Palestinian group Hamas and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Shortly after arriving late on Friday, Moussa said that if European countries talk to Iran about the nuclear programme, then "a dialogue with Iran would remove the concerns of some countries in the region."

Moussa is expected to meet with Khaled Meshaal, chief of the Damascus-based Hamas Politburo, later on Monday.