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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Israeli court delays expulsion ruling
Intisar Ajouri is escorted into a military court at Beit El
Israel has begun targeting attackers' relatives
Israel's highest court has temporarily blocked the expulsion of three relatives of suspected Palestinian militants, saying it needed more time to consider the move.


We see it as an illegal, immoral decision that strays from all human rights values

Tally Gur, Association for Civil Rights in Israel

The relatives had appealed to the Supreme Court against a ruling made on Monday by an Israeli military court, which ordered that they should be expelled from the West Bank to Gaza on Tuesday afternoon.

The Supreme Court said the military had to prove why the expulsions were necessary, and gave the relevant authorities 15 days to do so.

The proposed expulsions represent a new tactic for discouraging Palestinians from carrying out attacks on Israeli citizens.

But they have been bitterly condemned by human rights lawyers at home and abroad as unjust collective punishment, which will only undermine efforts to end the bloodshed.

In another development, the Israeli authorities announced they are to formally indict jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti on Wednesday.

The charges, linked to militant violence, include "incitement to murder".

Mr Barghouti - a senior figure in Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement and one of the most prominent Palestinians ever held by Israel - was captured in mid-April during the offensive in the West Bank.

Fatah officials said on Monday they had agreed with an appeal from an inter-factional umbrella group to halt attacks inside Israel, according to the AFP news agency.

But Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials have said they have no intention of halting attacks inside Israel in the immediate future.

Suicide belts

The three relatives include Intisar and Kifah Ajouri, the sister and brother of Ali Ajouri, who was accused of handing belts with explosives over to a suicide bomber.

Ali Ajouri was also suspected of involvement in a double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed five people. He was shot dead by the Israeli army last week.

Intisar Ajouri in military court
Intisar Ajouri denies sewing explosives into belts
Intisar Ajouri is accused of sewing explosives into the belts he allegedly handed over - a charge she denies.

She and her brother won the 15 day reprieve, along with Abdel Nasser Asidi, the brother of a Hamas activist who is suspected of killing several Israelis.

The decision to try to expel relatives of suspected militants was taken last month, and Israel also started a policy of destroying family homes - to the outrage of many observers.

"We see it as an illegal, immoral decision that strays from all human rights values," said Tally Gur, spokesman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

"The decision is a joke because if these people are dangerous, why are they releasing them to Gaza?"

The Palestinian Authority controls parts of both Gaza and the West Bank.

'Senior involvement'

An Israeli Justice Ministry statement said Marwan Barghouti would be charged with heading the Fatah military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and being "a central participant in decision-making" which led to dozens of Israeli deaths since the Palestinian uprising began nearly two years ago.

Mr Barghouti, 43, has maintained that he is a political leader and not involved in planning violence by militant groups.

His lawyer Khader Shkirat told Reuters news agency the Tel Aviv district court had no jurisdiction to try his client, who would deny the charges.

The public trial in a civilian court is expected to begin in a matter of weeks.

Correspondents say that by trying him in this fashion, Israel will be looking to show that the senior levels of the Palestinian leadership are behind shootings and bombings.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"The army has up to 15 days to explain why they should be deported from the West Bank to Gaza"

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13 Aug 02 | Middle East
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