U.S. Deplores Deportation Orders and May Back Resolution at the U.N.

The Bush administration has sharply criticized Israel’s decision to deport four Palestinian activists from the Gaza Strip and has indicated it might support a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the move.

At the United Nations, the Security Council was scheduled to convene Monday night to consider a resolution on the Palestinian situation that has been revised several times since it was introduced last month.

Earlier in the day, the United States circulated a working paper on the resolution that proposes including a passage that “deplores the decision by the government of Israel to resume deportations of Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories.

But in Washington, the State Department reiterated Monday that the United States would not support any resolution that includes a call for an international conference to deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The department’s deputy spokesman, Richard Boucher, said the United States deplores Israel’s decision to deport the four Palestinians, who are leaders of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement based in the Gaza Strip.

The deportations were ordered after Hamas admitted responsibility for the brutal murder of three Israeli Jews last Friday at an aluminum processing plant in Jaffa.

Those ordered deported were not directly involved in the incident. But in Israel, an army spokesman said they belong to the “field command of Hamas,” which in the last few months has “promoted murders, assassination attempts and other violent activities, which have included the use of knives and other means.”

The three Jews killed in Jaffa were repeatedly stabbed and their bodies mutilated.

U.S. MADE ITS STANCE CLEAR

The identities of the suspected murderers are known to the Israeli police, but they were still at large Monday.

“Obviously we condemn the recent attacks on Israelis,” said Boucher of the State Department. But he said that rather than deporting Arabs suspected of being involved in terrorist activities, Israel should take them to court.

The United States has consistently told Israel that “deportations are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention as it pertains to the treatment of inhabitants of occupied territories,” the deputy spokesman said.

“The United States believes that charges of wrongdoing should be brought in a court of law based on evidence to be argued in a public trial.”

Boucher said Secretary of State James Baker conveyed this view to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir when the two met here on Dec. 13.

Similar messages were conveyed over the weekend in Washington by Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly to Israeli Ambassador Zalman Shoval and in Israel by U.S. Embassy officials to officials in the Foreign and Defense ministries.

In Israel, observers said the U.S. warnings may have prevented the government from deporting a larger number of Hamas activists. Hundreds of Palestinians, including a number of fundamentalist leaders, were arrested over the weekend for their alleged involvement in the intifada.

But the fact that Israel proceeded with the four expulsion orders despite the U.S. warnings may have resulted in a shift in the U.S. stance on the Security Council resolution.

(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondents Aliza Marcus at the United Nations and David Landau in Jerusalem.)

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