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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK
Israel makes promise on deportations
A victim is stretchered away after an attack in Tel Aviv
The relatives have not been directly linked to any attack
Relatives of Palestinian militants have dropped a legal challenge to Israel's attempt to exile them from the West Bank after being told they will be given reasonable time to appeal against their deportations.

The 16 men withdrew their case after Israel promised them a 12-hour notice period if it were decided that they should be removed to the fenced-in Gaza Strip.

The men, some of the 21 male relatives of Palestinian militants arrested in the West Bank on Friday, had been challenging Israel's attempts to exile them on the grounds that such a move would be illegal under international law.

The Israeli Government has drawn strong international criticism over the deportation plan, which is widely seen as an illegal attempt to collectively punish Palestinians.

On Sunday, Israel's attorney general issued a statement declaring that deportation from the West Bank to Gaza would only be legal in the case of those "directly involved" in attacks on Israelis.

And a militant group, the al-Aqsa Martyrs, has said it will attack the families of Israeli officials if expulsions go ahead.


Israel's staunchest ally, the United States, has made clear its opposition to the deportation proposals.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
Peres met Erekat in the first high-profile talks in two weeks
The European Union has said that collective punitive measures are neither legitimate or acceptable, and the United Nations has also voiced its condemnation.

However, Israel officials have argued that the action would be justified in disrupting the support network behind the suicide bombers, and deterring future attacks.

The 21 men currently under arrest are related to two militants who, Israel says, organised separate attacks last week which left 12 Israelis dead.

The attacks have been seen as a sign that Israel's re-occupation of seven of the eight major Palestinian towns in the West Bank is failing to fulfil its stated aim of providing Israelis with security, while causing misery for Palestinians.

Funding deal

Palestinians have been locked in their homes, unable to work and short of supplies since Israeli troops stormed into the cities after suicide attacks in June.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat did meet for the first high-level talks between the two sides in nearly two weeks on Saturday, but there was no statement on when a withdrawal might take place.

However a deal was reached to release almost $43m funds raised from Palestinian tax revenues which Israel froze at the start of the Palestinian intifada (uprising) nearly two years ago.

It is understood that a supervisory body will oversee the distribution of the money to ensure that it does not go towards funding Palestinian militant groups.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Daniel Shek
"These people will be deported if we can link them to the bombers"
The BBC's Claire Marshall in Jerusalem
"There has been strong international criticism of the proposal"

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