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Sharon Modifies Palestinian Deportation Policy

Israel has accepted the principle that it can only deport the families of Palestinian suicide bombers from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, if they have been directly involved in terrorism. The decision came in the wake of an international uproar over a proposal to exile relatives of suspected Palestinian terrorists. Israel has backed away from any wholesale deportation of the family members of Palestinian suicide bombers from the West Bank and to the Gaza Strip.

The decision by Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, was made on the advice of the Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein.

Mr. Sharon accepted the principle laid out by Mr. Rubinstein, who says tangible evidence of family member's direct involvement in terrorist activities is required before such any such expulsions can be carried out.

Mr. Sharon made the decision in the face of a legal challenge by the families of those threatened with deportation.

The families withdrew their petition after Israel's Justice Department pledged not to sanction such expulsions if they were based solely on kinship of suspected terrorists.

Israel's Justice Minister, Meir Sheetreet, says each case will be carefully scrutinized.

"The idea of thinking about the possibility of deporting the family of terrorists to Gaza, which is deporting and not expelling," he said, "is checked and put only under the condition that those families have been supportive to the suicide bomber from their own family, if they knew about it and it is proved they knew about and did not prevent it, that would give the legitimacy to do such a deporting to Gaza."

Israel's Justice Department also promised a 12-hour warning period, in the event a decision is made to deport a Palestinian family member.

Israel last week arrested 21 fathers and brothers in the West Bank related to Palestinian suicide bombers and threatened to expel them to the Gaza Strip.

The United States, the European Union and the United Nations, have condemned the proposal as a form of collective punishment.