The Arab League has held an emergency meeting to discuss Israel's decision to authorize expulsions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank who do not have Israeli permits.
Arab League delegates began the meeting in Cairo Tuesday with an appeal from Palestinian envoy Barakat al-Farra for urgent action to prevent Israel from putting the decision into effect.
Egypt's official MENA news agency quotes Farra as saying the Israeli move is aimed at deporting thousands of Palestinians from their homeland in violation of international law.
Israel's military has denied planning mass deportations of Palestinians from the West Bank. It has said the new rule is aimed at ensuring proper oversight of the deportation process by military judicial authorities. The decision took effect Tuesday.
Syrian state media strongly condemned the Israeli announcement, calling it a policy of "ethnic cleansing."
Israel's previous deportation rules were aimed at expelling suspected infiltrators who entered the West Bank from states Israel designated as enemies. The new rules broaden Israel's definition of an infiltrator as someone residing in the West Bank without an Israeli permit.
In another development, Israeli troops and Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad group fought each other along the Israel-Gaza border Tuesday. Two Palestinians were killed, at least one of them an Islamic Jihad fighter.
Israel says its forces attacked a group of Palestinians planting explosives along the border fence in central Gaza. The militants say they came under fire from an Israeli helicopter and tanks.
Hamas militants who seized power in Gaza three years ago have avoided open conflict with Israel since the two sides ended a three-week war in January 2009.
But, smaller militant factions in Gaza have carried out sporadic rocket launches and other attacks, prompting Israel to warn earlier this month of an escalated military response.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has reduced the amount of international aid it is seeking for this year as part of its efforts to become more self-reliant.
Palestinian officials attending an international donor meeting in Madrid Tuesday requested $1.2 billion in budgetary assistance in 2010, down from $1.35 billion last year and $1.8 billion in 2008.
The envoy of the Quartet of Mideast peace mediators Tony Blair praised the Palestinian Authority at the meeting for achieving what he called "basic law and order" in the West Bank. Blair said better governance leads to improved economic activity and greater self-reliance.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.