Interior Min. Revokes East J'lem Residency of 4 Hamas Officials

Interior Minister Roni Bar-On revoked on Friday the Jerusalem residency permits and Israeli identity cards of four senior Hamas officials living in East Jerusalem, for failing to resign from the Palestinian Authority government. The men have been detained since Thursday morning, when they were arrested in an Israeli military sweep against Hamas.

Bar-On informed the men - PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arafa and Palestinian parliament members Mohammed Abu Tir, Ahmed Abu Atoun and Mahmoud Totah - of his decision in a letter to their lawyer, Hassan Jabareen, of Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

The interior minister is authorized to strip any Israeli resident or citizen of his of her legal status if the he believes the person has been disloyal to the state. Bar-On views the men's membership in Hamas fulfills this criterion.

"On May 29 I informed your clients that I am considering revoking the permanent residency permits," Bar-On wrote in the letter to Jabareen. "After becoming persuaded that your clients were given a fair opportunity to air the arguments against this intention, and after failing to receive an announcement from them about their resignation from the Palestinian Legislative Council, I have decided to revoke their permanent residency status by the authority invested in me."

Bar-On cited the men's active membership in the Palestinian parliament on behalf of Hamas, which is defined as a terror organization, as the basis for his decision. He further noted that their membership in the PA parliament constituted a forswearing of their allegiance to Israel in light of their supreme allegiance to the PA.

After the four are freed, they can expect a significant decline in their quality of life as a result of losing their permanent residency status. The Israeli identity cards that most East Jerusalem residents have entitles them to free movement within Israel, as well as an Israeli passport and National Insurance Institute benefits such as child allowances, state health insurance and education services.

The men are set to petition the High Court of Justice against Bar-On's decision in about a week, through Jabareen and attorney Osama Sa'adi of Jerusalem.

Sa'adi said yesterday that the permit revocation did not stand up to any legal criteria. "There is no reason to revoke their residency. They are Palestinian elected representatives from the Jerusalem area and their election had Israel's consent. If there are any complaints against them, criminal proceedings can be initiated, but Israel can't make them homeless.

"They are neither residents nor citizens of the PA," Sa'adi continued. "They live in East Jerusalem and Israel cannot revoke their residency, because they have no other residency. It violates international covenants to which Israel is a signatory."