Jerusalem: Israel`s decision to expel four Hamas politicians from Jerusalem threatened to set off a new crisis over the disputed city and could hinder US efforts to restart peace talks.
The expulsions of the three Palestinian lawmakers and a former Cabinet minister could start as early as Friday. Israel has not said where they would be sent, but the West Bank is a possible destination.
Israel revoked their Jerusalem residency rights in 2006 and arrested them because they belong to Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and has carried out scores of deadly attacks against Israelis. The expulsion orders were delayed because the men have been in prison until recently.
Israel has stripped thousands of Palestinians of their residency rights in east Jerusalem since capturing and annexing the area in the 1967 Mideast War. However, human rights activists said Israel has never before stripped
Palestinians of Jerusalem residency because of their political affiliation.
"This is a very dangerous precedent," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said. "We won`t accept it. We won`t allow it. We won`t just overlook it." He said the Israeli government was creating "the biggest obstacles yet on the path to peace”.
Jerusalem is holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians and the fate of Israeli-annexed eastern sector of the city has been the most explosive issue in two decades of on-and-off negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The
Palestinians want east Jerusalem as a capital, while Israel says it won`t relinquish any part of the city.