Israeli interior minister Ayelet Shaked has ordered the deportation of jailed Palestinian-French lawyer Salah Hammouri from his home in occupied East Jerusalem to France after revoking his Jerusalem residency.
Hammouri, who holds French citizenship, has been working for Palestinian rights group Addameer, based in the occupied East Jerusalem. The rights group Amnesty has called the deportation, which is to take place on Sunday, a “shameless attempt by Israel to silence anyone who might be advocating for the Palestinian cause”.
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Under Israeli law, the interior minister has the power to revoke the residency of Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from the occupied East Jerusalem, said the treatment of Hammouri is being seen by many people here as a test case. “Human rights lawyers and rights advocates say it’s a deliberate attempt by the Israeli authorities to expel Palestinians,” he said.
Dani Shenhar from HaMoked, an Israeli rights body that is fighting Hammouri’s case, 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, Hammouri 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.”
Under administrative detention
Hammouri has been detained for nine months under Israel’s controversial administrative detention policy – which allows suspects to be held without charge or trial for six months at a time. It can be renewed indefinitely. The law has been used to keep more than 700 Palestinians behind bars across Israel.
The 37-year-old has also been imprisoned by Israel several times in the past.
“Israel regards him as a terrorist. The most serious was a seven-year sentence for, allegedly, an assassination attempt. He was released as part of a prisoner swap between Hamas and the Israeli government,” Al Jazeera’s McBride said.
“Hammouri is a French citizen, but never lived in France for any length of time. He has spent all of his 37 years here in Jerusalem. If his residency is revoked, he can be deported at any time,” he said.
“Hammouri’s wife has already been deported. She is now living in France with their children.”
‘Son of Jerusalem’
French President Emmanuel Macron has previously raised concerns about the case with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
The French government has repeatedly urged the Israeli authorities to release Hammouri and allow him to live with his family in Jerusalem.
“France follows Salah Hammouri’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”.
Elsa Lefort, Hammouri’s wife, told Al Jazeera her husband is being targeted by Israel because he is a human rights defender.
“It’s awful news and I cannot imagine how Salah must be saddened,” she said, speaking from Paris. “He’s the son of Jerusalem. His life is there, he was born there. The city is part of himself. It’s horrible news for Salah.
“Since 20 years, Salah has been arrested by the Israelis and spent more than nine years in prison.”
Lefort went on to say Hammouri has been subjected to travel bans, and that she herself was denied entry to Palestine and deported to France.
Deportation is ‘war crime’
Last year, Hammouri was among six human rights activists whose mobile phones were found by independent security researchers to have been infected with spyware made by the Israel company NSO Group.
It was not known who placed the spyware on the phones. Israel has said there was 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 have said is meant to muzzle them and dry up their sources of funding.
Israel has alleged that Hammouri is an activist in “a banned militant group” because of his membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Amnesty International said his deportation would constitute a war crime.
“These latest plans are not only a shameless attempt to hinder Salah’s human rights work, they are also an expression of the Israeli authorities’ chilling long-term policy aim of reducing the number of Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Unlawful deportation from the Occupied Palestinian Territories constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime. Deportation carried to maintain a system of apartheid constitutes a crime against humanity. These crimes are all in the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor has opened an investigation into the situation in Palestine.”
Palestinian residents of Jerusalem can apply for Israeli citizenship, but few do, not wanting to be seen as accepting the occupation. Those who do apply, however, face a lengthy and bureaucratic process.