Exile of 12 Palestinians extended

A group of Palestinians forced by Israel to leave their homeland for Europe last year after a prolonged siege in Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity will remain there for another year.

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    The exile of 12 Palestinians, who went to six European Union countries in May 2002, was extended for another 12 months earlier this week, a European diplomatic source said late Thursday.


    Israel accuses these Palestinians of belonging to groups fighting occupation forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 


    They were expelled under a deal that ended the Israeli army’s siege of the Church of Nativity in which they sought refuge during last year’s invasion of the West Bank.


    Since then, the 12 Palestinians have been living in Belgium, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.


    A 13th Palestinian has remained in Cyprus, where the group initially travelled for two weeks before decisions were made by the EU countries to allow them in. 


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