Israel deports Salah Hammouri, French Palestinian lawyer and activist – Rip News


HAIFA, Israel — Israel revoked the citizenship of a Palestinian activist and deported him to France Sunday over what it called a “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel,” threatening to spark a diplomatic fight with Paris and amplifying international condemnations of Israeli policies toward Palestinians under occupation.

Salah Hammouri, a French Palestinian lawyer and activist, was deported to France at 6 a.m. local time on orders given by right-wing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. She has accused him of having ties to a banned militant group, though he has not been charged in the current proceedings.

“It is a tremendous achievement that just before the end of my duties I was able to bring about his deportation, with the tools at my disposal, and advance the fight against terrorism,” Shaked said in a statement. “I hope that the incoming government will continue in this line and deport terrorists from Israel.”

Aryeh Deri, who has been tapped to take over the Interior Ministry in Benjamin Netanyahu’s incoming government, said the deportation was “the end of a long but just legal process.”

Following a years-long process that France has repeatedly objected to, the deportation comes as Israel prepares to swear in the most far-right government in its history. Among its highest-ranking members is Itamar Ben Gvir, the radical leader of the Jewish Power Party, who has promised to expel “disloyal” citizens as part of his platform to reassert sovereignty amid the escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2005, Hammouri was imprisoned and accused of being involved in planning an attack on Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi, Ovadia Yosef. He was released in a 2011 prisoner trade, in which Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by the militant group Hamas, was traded for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Israel says Hammouri is active in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which it has labeled a terrorist organization.

Since March, Hammouri had been held in administrative detention, a legal category in which Israel holds thousands of suspected Palestinian militants for undefined periods of time, without charge or trial. When his administrative detention expired early this month, Shaked announced the decision to revoke his citizenship and deport him.

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal of the decision, but the move has spurred condemnation from international human rights organizations.

Several groups called on French President Emmanuel Macron this month to oppose the expulsion, saying it was a violation of international humanitarian law, including the ban on deportation of citizens of an occupied territory.

“Deportations of protected persons from an occupied territory can amount to war crimes,” said a letter issued this month from Amnesty International France, Human Rights Watch and three other French groups.

Hammouri was born in Kufr Aqab, a Palestinian village that is part of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. Palestinian residents there live in legal limbo, with revocable residency rights. Few apply for Israeli citizenship, which is seen as accepting the occupation.

Hammouri has worked as a defense attorney for Palestinian prisoners and, until last year, was active in Addameer, which advocates for prisoners’ rights. Along with five other Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, the group received a terrorist designation and was outlawed by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz last year, in a move that international watchdogs decried as state-sponsored persecution of Palestinians who criticize the Israeli occupation and government. Hammouri was also among six human rights activists whose cellphones were infected with malware by the Israeli spyware company NSO.

Jessica Montell, director of HaMoked, the Israeli human rights group that has defended Hammouri, condemned the Israeli decision and said it was still unclear whether France would accept his deportation.

“Deporting a Palestinian from their homeland for breach of allegiance to the state of Israel is a dangerous precedent and a gross violation of basic rights,” Montell said, adding that her organization “will continue to fight against this draconian and unconstitutional law.”

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