Israel police arrest Hamas man set for expulsion

Palestinian politician Mohammed Abu Teir has been arrested by Israeli police.

Updated: Jul 01, 2010, 10:56 AM IST

Jerusalem: A Palestinian politician slated for expulsion from Jerusalem because of his ties to Hamas was arrested by Israeli police on Wednesday and now faces a court hearing over whether he will be forced to leave the city.

Policemen arrested Mohammed Abu Teir in east Jerusalem for ignoring a court order to vacate his home, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. Abu Teir was taken to a police compound in downtown Jerusalem and will appear in court on Thursday, he said, and any further decision on if and when the Palestinian lawmaker will be expelled will be made by the court.

If Israel goes ahead, the move could ignite tensions in the holy city. Palestinians in east Jerusalem, which Israel captured and annexed in 1967 in a move that has not been internationally recognised, are angry over Israeli settlement construction in the city`s eastern sector and over a municipal plan that includes the slated demolition of Palestinian homes in the neighbourhood of Silwan. The neighbourhood has recently been the scene of rioting directed at police and Israeli settlers.

Abu Teir`s lawyer, Fadi Kawasmi, confirmed the arrest. Israeli authorities have ordered three other senior Hamas members to leave their homes in Jerusalem, but they were not arrested along with Abu Teir.

Israel recently released Abu Teir from prison but revoked his right to reside in Israeli-controlled east Jerusalem because of his Hamas membership. Hamas, an Islamic group with ties to Iran, is sworn to Israel`s destruction and has killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks since the 1990s.

The expulsion plan has drawn condemnation from the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which is holding indirect peace talks with Israel and hopes to make east Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Abu Teir, known locally for his dyed orange beard, was elected to the Palestinian parliament when Hamas won elections in 2006. Israel imprisoned him along with other Hamas members in a crackdown on the group several months later.

It is unclear where Abu Teir would go if he is barred from Jerusalem. He would most likely be forced to move a few miles away into the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority - itself a bitter rival of Hamas - wields limited power under Israel`s overall security control.

In another development, the US mediator in the indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, George Mitchell, visited the Gaza-Israel border yesterday to inspect one of the crossings into the blockaded territory ruled by the militant Hamas.