JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel canceled the residency status of 140,000 Palestinians, allegedly without warning, the daily Haaretz reported.
A document obtained by Haaretz, following a request filed under the Freedom of Information Law by a human rights organization, shows that the residency status of 140,000 West Bank Palestinians were canceled between 1967 and 1994, shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords.
Palestinians who left the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge to Jordan were required to leave their ID cards at the border crossing and were issued a travel document good for three years. If they did not return within those three years, they became registered as "no longer residents," Haaretz reported Wednesday.
The procedure also affected Palestinians who left to attend universities abroad.
Palestinians who left the West Bank after the Palestinian Authority was established retain their residency rights indefinitely.
The regulation constitutes a war crime and represents an Israeli attempt to affect the demographic composition of the West Bank, Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told Haaretz in a statement.
"This policy should not only be seen as a war crime as it is under international law, it also has a humanitarian dimension: We are talking about people who left Palestine to study or work temporarily but who could not return to resume their lives in their country with their families," Erekat said.
Erekat used the Haaretz report as another reason to call on the international community to recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state.
"Our right to self determination must not be subject to negotiations, including the right of our families to live in their homeland," he said in the statement. "It is time to put an end to the pain and humiliation caused by the continuation of the Israeli occupation.”
The regulation’s existence was discovered by the Center for the Defense of the Individual when it looked into the case of a West Bank resident imprisoned in Israel who lost his residency status.