Israeli police arrest Palestinian Hamas member slated for expulsion from Jerusalem

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Israel police arrest Hamas man set for expulsion

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian politician slated for expulsion from Jerusalem because of his ties to Hamas was arrested by Israeli police 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 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 recognized, 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 neighborhood of Silwan. The neighborhood 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 U.S. mediator in the indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, George Mitchell, visited the Gaza-Israel border Wednesday to inspect one of the crossings into the blockaded territory ruled by the militant Hamas.

Meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu afterward, Mitchell praised Israel’s recent decision to ease the blockade.

“We appreciate the changes that have been made. There has been a great deal of progress in terms of permitting additional goods into Gaza,” Mitchell said, adding that the U.S. would work with Israel on “further steps that will be taken in the near future.”

Israel pledged to loosen the blockade in wake of the international outcry sparked by the deaths of nine Turkish activists during a botched attempt by Israeli commandos to block a protest ship sailing for Gaza last month.

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