Israel on Thursday announced it has stripped a Palestinian lawyer of his Jerusalem residency and plans to deport him to France, saying the man is a terror operative belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The decision by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked 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.
Salah Hamouri, a lifelong Jerusalem resident who holds French citizenship,
has been held since March in administrative detention – an Israeli tool that allows authorities to hold suspects without charge for months at a time.
Shaked said that after Hamouri’s detention expires this weekend, he will be deported to France as quickly as possible.
“We must fight terrorism with all the tools at our disposal,” she said. “It is not acceptable for terrorists like Hamouri to gain status in Israel.”
Israel says that Hamouri is a member of the PFLP, labeled a terror organization by Israel and the United States. He has worked as a lawyer for Adameer, a rights group that assists Palestinian prisoners, which was blacklisted by Israel for alleged ties to the PFLP.
He spent seven years in prison after being convicted in an alleged plot to kill prominent rabbi Ovadia Yosef but was released in a 2011 prisoner swap with the Hamas terror group. He has not been convicted in the latest proceedings against him.
Israel, however, said he has used his Jerusalem residency to continue “his hostile, serious and significant activity.” Security officials had urged authorities to swiftly advance proceedings against Hamouri “in light of his activities,” Shaked’s office said.
Last year, Shaked revoked his Jerusalem residency rights, claiming a “breach of allegiance,” and early this year he was placed in administrative detention based on secret evidence that he was not allowed to see.
The Supreme Court this week cleared the way for the deportation after rejecting an appeal from Israeli human rights group HaMoked against the order stripping him of his residency.
HaMoked attorney Dani Shenhar called the revocation of his residency a “drastic measure that violates a person’s basic right to live in their homeland.”
“As a member of the indigenous population of Jerusalem, Hamouri owes no allegiance to the State of Israel,” Shenhar said. “The fact that this decision was made largely on the basis of secret evidence only exacerbates the injustice.”
It was not immediately clear when Hammouri will be deported. French President Emmanuel Macron has previously raised concerns about the case with Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
“France follows Salah Hamouri’s situation very closely and at the highest level,” said the French foreign ministry in a statement. He “must be able to have a normal life in Jerusalem, where he was born and where he lives, and his wife and children must be able to travel there to get back with him.”
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.
Palestinians in the annexed part of the city have been granted residency status and may apply for citizenship, though few embark on the lengthy bureaucratic process. Residency 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.
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.