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Stripping Palestinians of residency may be 'war crime'

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 08/08/2017
Nearly 15,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem have had their residency status revoked [AP Photo] © Provided by Al Jazeera Nearly 15,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem have had their residency status revoked [AP Photo]

Israel is pushing Jerusalem's Palestinian residents to leave their homes through a policy of systematic transfer that violates international law, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

"Israel claims to treat Jerusalem as a unified city, but the reality is effectively one set of rules for Jews and another for Palestinians," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director, said in a report released on Tuesday.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day-War in a move never recognised by the international community.

The more than 300,000 Palestinians there have permanent residency status but are not Israeli nationals.

READ MORE: Sheikh Jarrah family faces eviction to benefit settlers

While residents of occupied East Jerusalem are allowed to apply for citizenship, most do not as they view it as recognition of Israeli sovereignty.

Since 1967, 14,595 Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem have had their residence status revoked, effectively barring them from remaining in the city of their birth, the HRW report said citing interior ministry figures.

"This constitutes forcible transfers when causing displacement to other parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and deportations when displacement takes place outside the country," the report said. 

"Deportation or forced transfers of any part of the population of an occupied territory could amount to war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court."

The majority of these revocations were due to spending periods of time out of the city, with Israel arguing their "centre of life" was not in Jerusalem.

READ MORE: Can Israel transfer its Palestinian population?

The Israeli interior ministry spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The report comes two days after an Israeli court decided to strip Alla Zayoud, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, of his citizenship after he carried out an attack.

It was the first ruling of its kind, according to Israel-based Arab rights group Adalah.

Zayoud, a 22-year-old from Umm al-Fahm, was convicted on four counts of attempted murder after he allegedly drove a car into Israeli soldiers in October 2015.

He was sentenced to 25 years in jail in June 2016.

READ MORE: Israel 'minimising Palestinian presence' in Jerusalem  

Omar Shakir, HRW's director for Israel and the Palestinian territories, told AFP news agency that the decision to revoke Zayoud's nationality "would render him stateless, in violation of Israel's obligations under international human rights law".

Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel in a join statement condemned the move, saying it "sets a dangerous precedent".

The court ruling "allows the revocation of Alaa Zayoud's citizenship [and] sets a most dangerous precendent. It is no coincidence that the concerned individual is an Arab citizen", the statement said. 

"There has never been a request to revoke the citizenship of a Jewish citizen, even when Jewish citizens were involved in serious or grave crimes."

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