US State Dept. voice concerns over Israel's deportation of residents

Price said that while the US "recognizes the very real security challenges facing Israel,” the deportation of Hamouri is concerning.

Salah Hamouri shows his French passport during an interview with Reuters in the neighbourhood of Dahiyet al-Barid, December 19, 2011 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Salah Hamouri shows his French passport during an interview with Reuters in the neighbourhood of Dahiyet al-Barid, December 19, 2011
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

WASHINGTON - State Department Spokesperson Ned Price addressed on Monday a question on Israel’s decision to deport Salah Hamouri to France.

Speaking at the daily press briefing, Price said that while the US “recognizes the very real security challenges facing Israel,” it also has "concerns about the practice of deportation and revocation of residency.”

Hamouri was serving time for attempting to assassinate Ovadia Yosef and membership in a terrorist organization when he was released in the 2010 Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange.

He was re-arrested later and was deported to France earlier this week. The Interior Ministry said that he was committing security offenses.

“We have heard the statements from the Israeli Government that this was a decision made out of concern for Israel’s security,” said Price, adding that the US is “not in a position to assess this claim.”

 US STATE Department spokesperson Ned Price speaks during a news conference. The Israeli and American Jewish press have vacated the State Department media venue, says the writer (credit: REUTERS) US STATE Department spokesperson Ned Price speaks during a news conference. The Israeli and American Jewish press have vacated the State Department media venue, says the writer (credit: REUTERS)

“For our part, we of course recognize the very real security challenges facing Israel, and we’ve reiterated our commitment to Israel’s security. It is, in fact, ironclad,” Price continued. “However, we have concerns about the practice of deportation and revocation of residency, and the potential threat of such policies on the demographic character of Jerusalem,” said Price.

Then he said that "regarding any broader implications of this beyond this discrete situation, we of course have serious concerns about any broader practice of revocation of residency and deportation from East Jerusalem. But I would hasten to add that does not appear to be what is happening here."

France’s Foreign Ministry denounced the deportation and said the French government had actively sought to defend his rights and has been in contact with Israeli authorities multiple times. “We condemn the Israeli authorities’ decision against the law to deport Salah Hamouri to France,” France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Last week, Price also expressed concern following the killing of 16-year-old Jana Zakarneh. Asked about it at Monday's press briefing, the department’s spokesperson added: “We did express our condolences to the family of Jana Zakarneh. We noted the IDF had put out a statement,” he said. “We know that they’re undertaking a review; we certainly hope to see that review culminate in accountability.”

“We’ve raised the issue ourselves,” he continued. “It’s not for us to speak to what we’ve heard privately from our Israeli partners, but our expression of condolence and the hope and expectation that this investigation will end in accountability stands.”

Tovah Lazaroff and Reuters contributed for this report.