Israel deports Palestinian lawyer allegedly involved in terror activities to France

Officials say Salah Hamouri, who spent 7 years in prison for plot to assassinate former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, is still active in PFLP terror group; he denies accusations

Franco-Palestinian lawyer and Adameer field researcher Salah Hamouri at the NGO's offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 1, 2020. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
Franco-Palestinian lawyer and Adameer field researcher Salah Hamouri at the NGO's offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 1, 2020. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

Israel on Sunday announced it has deported a Palestinian lawyer to France, saying Salah Hamouri was still active in a terror group years after he was released from jail for a plot to kill a prominent rabbi.

Hamouri, who holds French citizenship, had been held since March in administrative detention –- an Israeli tool that allows authorities to hold suspects for months at a time without charging them and without allowing them to see the evidence against them. He has denied all the allegations against him.

Hamouri, who has lived in Jerusalem his entire life, has been held on suspicion of participation in terror activities due to his affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group, but has not been charged or convicted in the latest proceedings against him.

He works for the Palestinian human rights organization Addameer, which was deemed by Israel in October 2021 to be a terror organization, together with several other NGOs — a designation Addameer along with the UN and several Israeli human rights groups have all strongly rejected.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked decided to strip Hamouri of his residency rights in October 2021.

Israel says that Hamouri is himself a member of the PFLP, which is registered as a terror organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, but has not provided any evidence publicly for those allegations.

Announcing his deportation on Sunday morning, Shaked praised it as a “tremendous achievement” coming at the end of her tenure as interior minister,

“The sentence for the terrorist Salah Hamouri has been completed and he has been deported from Israel,” Shaked said in a statement.

“This was a long and protracted process and it is a tremendous achievement that I was able to bring about his deportation just before the end of my duties, using the tools at my disposal to advance the fight against terrorism. I hope that the incoming government will continue along these lines and deport terrorists from Israel,” Shaked said.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked at a conference of the Srugim news website, in Jerusalem, on October 30, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Expected incoming interior minister Aryeh Deri, head of the Shas party, said the deportation “marked the end of a long but just legal process.”

There was no public comment from France on the matter.

Israeli human rights group HaMoked decried the decision, saying that “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.”

Hamoked appealed against the 2018 law enabling the state to revoke permanent residency status from East Jerusalem Palestinians on the basis of “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel” in September 2019.

The group was, however, asked to withdraw the petition since the court said it was first hearing a motion against the law for revoking citizenship on the same basis.

The court only ruled on that petition in July 2022, in which it upheld the state’s right to revoke citizenship for breach of allegiance but under limited circumstances. The Interior Ministry under Shaked had by then already revoked Hamouri’s permanent residency.

Hamouri has worked as a lawyer for Addameer, a human rights group that assists Palestinian prisoners, which was blacklisted by Israel for alleged ties to the PFLP.

According to a 2020 report by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, senior Addameer officials have in the past been involved in terror attacks, planning such attacks, or incitement to terrorism.

Hamouri spent six years in prison after being convicted in a 2005 plot to kill Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, then a former chief rabbi and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.

Hamouri was freed in the 2011 prisoner swap with the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group for the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel said since then that Hamouri has used his Jerusalem residency to continue “his hostile, serious and significant activity.”

The decision to revoke his residency underscored the fragile status of Jerusalem’s Palestinians, who hold revocable Israeli residency rights but are largely not citizens.

It also threatened to trigger a diplomatic spat with France, which has argued against the deportation. French President Emmanuel Macron has previously raised concerns about the case with Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron hold a press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 5, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Last year, Hamouri was among six human rights activists whose mobile phones were found by independent security researchers to have been infected with spyware made by the Israeli company NSO Group.

It was not known who placed the spyware on the phones. Israel says there’s no connection between the terror designation of Adameer and five other Palestinian rights groups and any alleged use of NSO spyware. Israel has provided little evidence publicly to support the terrorism designation, which Palestinian groups say is meant to muzzle them and dry up their sources of funding.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important religious sites, in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognized. It considers the entire city to be its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

While Jews in the city are entitled to automatic citizenship, Palestinians are granted residency status. This allows them freedom of movement, the ability to work and access to Israeli social services, but they are not allowed to vote in national elections. Residency rights can be stripped if a Palestinian is found to live outside the city for an extended period or in certain security cases.

Palestinians can apply for citizenship. But few do, not wanting to be seen as accepting what they see as an occupation. Those who do apply, however, face a lengthy and bureaucratic process.

The Haaretz daily reported this year that fewer than 20,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem, some 5% of the population, hold Israeli citizenship, and that just 34% of applications are approved. It cited information from the Interior Ministry delivered by Shaked to a parliamentary inquiry.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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