Sharansky plans to restore Palestinian residency rights

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Under provisions that allow for the cancellation of residency of Palestinians away from the city for seven or more years, 788 people lost residency rights in 1998, according to the human rights group B'tselem.

B'tselem officials said they hoped to see an annulment of the law that had not been vigorously enforced until 1996.

More 2,000 people lost their residency during the last three years in what was viewed by Palestinian leaders as an attempt to alter the city's demographic balance and termed by some as "ethnic cleansing."

Ministry officials had said they were enforcing the law, without demographic motives.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi called the new move "positive," adding that "we hope they will return the identity cards of all of those who have had theirs confiscated."

Sharansky also promised to "do everything possible" to redress the conditions encountered by Palestinians using the ministry's eastern Jerusalem offices.

"This Interior Ministry [office] is in really bad condition," Sharansky said at the site, near Nablus Road.

The long and unpredictable wait to reach the building's cage-like entrance — a precaution against stonethrowing — is notorious in eastern Jerusalem.

Because of the inadequate size and limited hours of the facility, Palestinians line up for hours in the street and are frequently turned away if and when they reach the door. For some, the line starts the night before.

Lawyers from Orient House filed a petition to the Supreme Court last week in a bid to force the ministry to change the arrangements.

The petition filed on behalf of seven eastern Jerusalem residents said the wait is "humiliating and harmful to the human dignity" of those using the offices. It demanded expanding the hours beyond the 8:30 a.m. to noon schedule and the opening of branch offices.