Uraiqat: W Bank deportees to return

More than 60 Palestinians from the West Bank who were deported by Israel to the Gaza Strip or Europe will return home within two weeks, Palestinian Negotiations Minister Saib Uraiqat said on Saturday.

    Uraiqat said those in exile would return in two weeks

    "Israel has agreed to allow the return of all Palestinians deported to Gaza and Europe to return home," Uraiqat said, adding that the move had been agreed before Tuesday's landmark Middle East peace summit which took place in Egypt.

    "They will return within two weeks," he said. A joint Israeli-Palestinian committee on the deportees would meet within two or three days to finalise details of the exiles' return home, he added.

    Over the past two years, Israel has deported 56 West Bank residents to the Gaza Strip on security grounds.


    Another 13 Palestinians, who were involved in the siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity in April 2002, were deported to Europe.

    "This was agreed as part of the security understandings before the summit"

    Senior Israeli source

    A senior Israeli source confirmed that an agreement had been reached but could not say exactly when the deportees would return.

    "This was agreed as part of the security understandings reached before the summit which said [Israel's] pursuit of the deported and the most wanted would be frozen," he said.

    "It is a conditional return, a sort of probation system where they must agree to abide by certain conditions, which include submitting themselves to the supervision of the Palestinian security services, not returning to terror, and remaining in their home towns," he added.

    Going home

    But any violation of the terms would release Israel from its obligations, he said.

    "To the extent that they violate these conditions they will be actively pursued, if not by the Palestinian security forces, then by us."

    After meeting Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas earlier, Samid Mustafa, a deportee from Bethlehem in the southern West Bank, said the newly installed PA president had promised all deportees they would be home "within two weeks".

    "Abu Mazin [Abbas] told us that every one of us will return home in a maximum of two weeks," he said in Gaza City.



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