Courts delay deportation policy

With a poster of his suicide bomber son by his side, Ata Sarasara sits in front of the rubble of his Beit Jalla house Aug. 8. Israel demolished it as a deterrent to would-be terrorists. (Brian Hendler)

With a poster of his suicide bomber son by his side, Ata Sarasara sits in front of the rubble of his Beit Jalla house Aug. 8. Israel demolished it as a deterrent to would-be terrorists. (Brian Hendler)

JERUSALEM, Aug. 13 (JTA) — A controversial policy to deport Palestinian terrorists’ relatives from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip is facing Israel’s toughest legal test. The policy came before Israel’s High Court of Justice on Tuesday, when three relatives of Palestinian terrorists appealed deportation orders slated to take effect that day. The court issued a temporary injunction delaying the deportations and giving the Israeli army 15 days to respond to petitions filed on behalf of the Palestinians. Civil rights groups filed the petitions after an Israeli military court ordered the deportations Monday. Israel’s attorney general recently ruled that expulsions must be limited to those with direct ties to their relatives’ terrorist activities, leaving only these three Palestinians eligible for expulsion from an original group of nearly two dozen arrested. Opponents of the policy call it collective punishment. Lawyers for the three Palestinians argued that the deportations violate international law. Leah Tsemel, one of the lawyers, said there is never any justification for taking such measures against terrorists’ relatives. “In Pakistan, there are very effective punishments — you rape the sister of the perpetrator of the crime,” she said in response to a reporter’s question. But, she added, “There are things we cannot allow ourselves to do. There are things that even in fighting terrorism, you just don’t do.” The three candidates for deportation are Kifah and Intisar Ajouri, and Azzam Atzida. The Ajouris are the brother and sister of Ali Ajouri, a Tanzim member who was believed responsible for a July 17 double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. He was killed recently by Israeli forces. Kifah Ajouri told interrogators that he knew his brother made bombs, but he still supplied him with food and lodging and once even stood watch for him, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported. The third Palestinian, Azzam Atzida, is the brother of Nasser Atzida, a West Bank Hamas leader believed responsible for two deadly attacks near the West Bank settlement of Immanuel. According to Ha’aretz, Azzam Atzida admitted that he was aware that his brother was involved in terrorism — yet nonetheless gave him food and lent him his car. The deportations, as well as recently begun house demolitions, are aimed at deterring terrorists by punishing their families. Late Monday night, Israeli forces blew up the homes of a suicide bomber and a gunman in the West Bank as relatives watched. One home belonged to a Palestinian who took part in a shooting attack in Beersheba. The other belonged to a suicide bomber who blew himself up in Rishon le-Zion earlier this year. The Israeli army intelligence chief said Tuesday that Israel’s new policy was having an effect. Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi told a Knesset committee that at least five terrorist attacks were prevented as a result of pressure from would-be terrorists’ relatives, who feared deportation or house demolitions. On Sunday, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer offered a similar assessment, telling the Cabinet that Israel’s new policy of demolishing the homes of terrorists is beginning to have a deterrent effect. Ben-Eliezer told Cabinet ministers that he had seen reports of Palestinian parents attempting to stop their children from carrying out terrorist attacks for fear their homes would be demolished. Just the same, he pointed out, 14 Israelis were killed and 90 wounded by Palestinian terrorists in the past week. The latest deadly act of terror took place Saturday night, when Yafit Herenstein, 31, was killed and her husband Arno was moderately wounded when a terrorist infiltrated Moshav Mekhora in the West Bank. In another attack, a Palestinian gunman opened fire Sunday on a group of Israeli road workers near the Dugit settlement in northern Gaza. One Israeli was shot at least five times in the arms and legs, but was reported in stable condition. Israeli soldiers chased the gunman and killed him in a firefight.

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