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Israel Issues Order Enabling Deportations of 'Illegal' West Bank Residents

Israel has issued an order allowing its forces to deport Palestinians and others from the occupied West Bank if the military deems them to be residing there illegally.

Israel's military published the order on its Web site Sunday, drawing condemnations from 10 Israeli rights groups who warned the measure could enable the expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinians.

The Israeli military denies planning any mass deportation of Palestinians from the West Bank. It says the new deportation guidelines that take effect Tuesday are designed to ensure proper oversight of the deportation process by military judicial authorities.

Palestinian officials in the West Bank denounced the Israeli measure, saying it violates basic rights by making it a crime for people without Israeli permits to live in their West Bank homes.

The Israeli military's existing deportation rules enable it to expel infiltrators who enter the West Bank from states that Israel designates as enemies.

The new guidelines broaden the definition of an infiltrator as someone residing in the West Bank without an Israeli permit. They also allow Israeli authorities to deport a designated infiltrator in as little as three days, and make the offense punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Israeli rights groups say they fear Israel's military will use the measure to rid the West Bank of tens of thousands of Palestinians born in the Gaza Strip, and foreign spouses of West Bank Palestinians.

The West Bank and Gaza are divided by Israeli territory and have been ruled by rival Palestinian factions since 2007. Israel does not permit regular travel between the two regions.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.