Israel issues Hamas Jerusalem legislators ultimatum: quit group or leave town

Israel's interior minister on Monday informed four Hamas legislators from east Jerusalem that they must renounce their membership in the militant Islamic group if they were to continue to have residency rights in Israel-controlled Jerusalem.

Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On issued the ultimatum to Mohammed Abu Teir, Ahmed Abu Atoun, Khaled Abu Arafa and Mahmoud Totach.

"You will either resign or you won't be with us," Bar-On said in a Channel 2 TV interview. "The letters were delivered to them today, and they have 30 days to decide."

Residents of east Jerusalem enjoy a wide range of social benefits including pension and health care. Israeli-issued identity cards grant them permanent residency in Jerusalem and freedom of movement in Israel.

The special arrangement is part of the conflict over Jerusalem. Israel captured the traditionally Arab sector in the 1967 war and annexed it a few weeks later. Israel offered citizenship to the Palestinians there, but few accepted. However, Israel gave ID cards to them that are almost identical to the ones Israeli citizens carry.

Palestinians claim the Arab sector of the city as the capital of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel says that according to interim peace accords, the Palestinians are not allowed to conduct political activity in Jerusalem. Israel considers Hamas a terror organization.

Abu Teir has been detained repeatedly by Jerusalem police for political activity in the city.

Israel originally threatened to strip the Hamas legislators of their Jerusalem identity cards in April after the Palestinians' Hamas-led government refused to denounce a suicide bombing outside a Tel Aviv fast food restaurant that killed 11 civilians, including an American teenager, and wounded dozens, reports AP.

O.Ch.