Nativity deportees: PA responsible for our exile
Published Wednesday 04/09/2013 (updated) 07/09/2013 17:15
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A group of Palestinians deported from Palestine in 2002 have demanded an explanation from President Abbas after he recently said that they would never return.
Abbas said during a recent meeting of Fatah's revolutionary council that although the deal to deport the fighters was "shameful", it is doubtful that they will ever return.
"No one knows about the deal of the nativity church and with whom it was done and where the documents are. All we know is that a number of men from the church were deported to Gaza, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and other countries and until now they haven't been back and will not come back," he added.
In a statement to Ma'an, deportees expressed outrage at the comments.
"President Mahmoud Abbas knows full details about the deal and in 2005 we met with him in Gaza and at that time he was prime minister and told us that this deal was a big mistake made by the PA.
"He told us that he had reached a deal with the Israeli prime minister, who was Ehud Olmert at that time, and said in a few hours we would be back in our homes in Bethlehem."
The deportees called on Abbas to clarify his statements and establish a committee to investigate the deportation deal.
In April 2002, during a major Israeli incursion into the West Bank Israel named Operation Defensive Shield, Israeli forces besieged the Nativity Church in Bethlehem after dozens of fighters took refuge in the church.
After 40 days, the negotiations involving international organizations ended the siege with the deportation of 13 fighters to European countries and 26 others to the Gaza Strip.
Israel agreed to let the fighters return to their homes after two years, but 11 years on the deportees remain in exile.