Israel expels 12 Palestinians from West Bank to Gaza
Israel Defense Forces troops on Thursday night expelled twelve Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip after the Supreme Court rejected their appeal and that of four others, Army Radio reported.
The militants were brought to two Gaza crossings in groups of four, Palestinian security officials said on condition of anonymity. The army did not immediately comment.
The Supreme Court had earlier in the day ruled that the 12 Palestinians could be expelled at any time, the army said.
The 12 are among a group of 18 listed for expulsion. Five had already been sent to Gaza over the past two weeks, and the case of one is still pending.
Ghanem Sawalmi, 30, from the Balata refugee camp next to the West Bank city of Nablus, said he was glad to be "free in part of my homeland," but he objected to being cut off from his family, including a baby girl born one month before he was arrested in June 2002.
Sawalmi, a teacher, was never charged.
"We are victims of the occupation policy and the occupation aggression against our people," he said after arriving at Gaza police headquarters.
Palestinians place great importance on family relations and many consider forced removal from their hometowns a greater punishment than imprisonment.
The military has said expulsion is meant to prevent further terrorist activity, and is used when a formal trial would endanger intelligence sources.
Last year, however, the military tried to institute a policy of expelling relatives of suspected militants as punishment and deterrence, but the Supreme Court ruled that only those directly involved in attacks could be expelled to Gaza.
Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said eight of those just expelled were members of Hamas and the other four belonged to Islamic Jihad.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights on Thursday condemned the practice.
"PCHR calls upon the Israeli military to immediately rescind these 'assigned residence' orders and halt all other grave breaches of international humanitarian law," the group said in a statement.