"It is my right to return to my wife and family," he said. 

'Inhumane policy'

The Israeli move drew condemnation from Palestinian political leaders, who denounced Sabah's deportation as "inhumane".

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Issa Qaraqi, the minister of prisoner affairs in the government of  Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, said that Sabah should have been released to the West Bank.

"He has no connection to Gaza, no relatives there, nothing."

He said that the deportation was an example of Israel invoking the controversial new military orders that allow "illegal" residents of the West Bank to be expelled.

But Israeli authorities denied the orders were behind the decision. "The individual's release to the Gaza Strip was done in accordance with the Prison Service's decision and in light of the location of his place of residence, and was not due to a repatriation order issued by any military commander," the Israeli military said in a statement.

Sabah's case follows that of Saber Albayari, who was deported to Gaza after seeking medical treatment in an Israeli hospital on Wednesday.

Albayari had been living in Israel for the past 15 years, but was returned to Gaza when Israeli authorities discovered that he had been born there.

Some fear that the expulsions could be the first in a wave of deportations of Palestinians from Israel and the West Bank.

Up to 70,000 Palestinians could be at risk of deportation under the military order, which has been roundly condemned by Arab politicians.

Last week President Abbas vowed to confront the order. "Israel has no right to deport any Palestinian, and the Palestinian Authority will not allow it and will confront it with various means."

Al Jazeera's Jackie Rowland, reporting from Jerusalem, said that the individual stories put a human face on what is a deliberate strategy by Israel to treat the West Bank and Gaza differently.

"It fits into a pattern of Israel's strategy to treat Gaza and the West Bank as separate geopoliticial entities," she said.