Attoun - Reuters - December 6, 2011
Palestinian Hamas member Ahmad Attoun, covered in a Hamas flag, speaks to the media upon his release from an Israeli prison at Qalandiya checkpoint, near Ramallah, December 6, 2011. Photo by Reuters
Text size

Israel expelled a Hamas member from Jerusalem on Tuesday, releasing him from prison at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city where he crossed into Palestinian Authority-controlled Ramallah.

Ahmad Attoun, whose Israeli-issued permit to reside in Jerusalem was revoked in 2006, had spent 70 days in an Israeli jail for being illegally present in the city, his lawyer said.

"This is one of the hardest moments of my life," Attoun told journalists as he crossed the Qalandia checkpoint that divides Ramallah from Jerusalem.

"We are the original residents of this country and the occupation is the one that should leave the country, not us," added Attoun, who was elected a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is deeply hostile to Israel and does not recognize its existence. Israel and the West regard it as a terrorist organization.

Jerusalem has been controlled by Israel since its capture in a 1967 war. The Palestinians want the eastern half of the city as the capital of the state they hope to found in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israeli police arrested Attoun in September. He was one of three Hamas members, including a former government minister, who had been sheltering for more than a year in the International Red Cross (ICRC) offices in East Jerusalem after losing their Israeli-issued residency permits.

In a speech at the United Nations in September, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cited the case of the three Hamas members as an example of what he described as Israel's "ethnic cleansing" of Jerusalem.
Israel regards the whole city as its indivisible capital, a claim not recognized internationally.