Israel Expels West Bank Palestinian to Gaza Upon Release From Prison

Ahmad Sabah completed his prison term, only to find out he wouldn't be allowed to reunite with his family.

A Palestinian prisoner from the West Bank was forcibly deported to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, immediately after his release from prison in Israel.

Ahmad Sabah, 39, who was released from Ketziot prison after serving his sentence, was put on a bus to Gaza while his wife, son and other relatives waited for him since the morning hours at the Tarqumiya checkpoint in the West Bank.

Sabah was told only before boarding the bus at about noon that he was being taken to Gaza. His family and relatives only found out in the evening that he would not be coming home.

Sabah was born in Jordan to a refugee family from the village of Um a-Shuf near Haifa. In 1994 he joined the Palestinian defense forces entering the Gaza Strip with Yasser Arafat and received a Palestinian identity card with a Gaza address. About a year later he moved to the West Bank, where he settled down and raised a family.

In 2001 he was arrested, tried and convicted of membership in a Fatah militia, throwing fire bombs and making and conspiring to plant a bomb.

During the first five years in prison Sabah's family was not permitted to visit him, he and his wife Hanan told Haaretz in separate telephone calls.

At a later stage his wife and young son, Yazan, were allowed to visit him once every six months. The last time they saw each other was in October 2009.

Sabah set up a protest tent near the Erez checkpoint in the Gaza Strip and says he will not leave until he is allowed to return home to his family.

Since 1996, in violation of the Oslo Accords, Israel has forbidden the Palestinian Authority to change the identity card address of people who moved from Gaza to the West Bank. Since the end of 2000 Israel has been classifying these people as "illegal aliens" in the West Bank.

'In keeping with procedures'

An IDF spokesman said Sabah's release to the Gaza Strip was "in keeping with the Prison Service procedures to release prisoners to their registered address except in extremely irregular cases."

The spokesman said Sabah had been told he was being sent to Gaza, and did not object or mention having a family in the West Bank. Nor did he say he wanted to be released to the West Bank, the spokesman said.