Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri revoked the residency rights Thursday of four Palestinians charged with taking part in deadly attacks in Jerusalem.
The move was the first revocation of such rights in 18 months, and the first since the start of a round of violence that has rocked the country over the last four months.
Israel effectively annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 and granted Arab residents some rights, but not full Israeli citizenship.
Deri, who said he would seek to have terrorists’ residency revoked after entering office earlier this month, said those who murdered Israelis or harmed state security would no longer be able to enjoy the privileges the state afforded them
“This is an exceptional step but the severity of their actions completely justifies my decision,” he said.
Three of the Palestinians were indicted for throwing stones at a car in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, causing driver Alexander Levlovitz, 64, to lose control of his vehicle and crash into a pole.
Considered by some the first casualty in the current round of Palestinian violence, Levlovitz died of his wounds the next morning.
The three, all of whom have been charged with manslaughter, are Muhammad Salah Muhammad Abu Kaf, 18, Walid Fares Mustafa Atrash, 18, and Abed Muhammad Abed Rabu Dawiat, 17, all of the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher.
The Shin Bet said one of the three had told investigators that he carried out the attack in the name of terror group Hamas and that they had thrown stones at several Israeli cars before hitting Levlovitz’s.
The group then fled the scene, meeting later to coordinate their version of events in case they were caught, according to the Shin Bet.
The fourth Palestinian whose residence rights were canceled was 21-year-old Jabel Mukaber resident and Hamas supporter Bilal Abu Ghanem, who, along with another man, Baha Alyan, boarded Bus 78 in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood and waited several minutes for the bus to fill with passengers before they began stabbing and shooting people, killing three passengers.
He and Alyan were shot and subdued by police and the latter died of his wounds. Abu Ghanem was indicted at the city’s district court in November.
One of the victims, American immigrant Richard Lakin, 76, succumbed to his wounds two weeks after the attack in which he was shot in the head and stabbed in the chest.
Haviv Haim, 78, and Alon Govberg, 51, were also killed in the attack and additional 15 people were injured.
The measure of revoking residency rights for East Jerusalemites has been used in the past. In October, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought up the idea of revoking residency for thousands of East Jerusalemites, drawing fire from Washington.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at the time that the measure “would obviously be of some concern to us.” The US, Earnest went on, reiterates the “importance of all sides avoiding provocative actions and rhetoric.”
The Armon Hanatziv neighborhood saw a number of attacks and attempted attacks in late 2015, thanks to its location on the seam between West and East Jerusalem, close to the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jabel Mukaber and Sur Baher.
Eight days ago, a 16-year-old Palestinian who allegedly attempted to stab an Israeli man near a bus stop was indicted at the Jerusalem District Court for attempted murder.
Earlier this month, police removed concrete barriers which had separated Armon Hanatziv from Jabel Mukaber since October, in a sign of increasing calm.