A number of Palestinians yesterday took part in a rally organised in solidarity with 39 Palestinians deported to Europe and Gaza 17 years ago, after the siege on the Church of the Nativity, Arab48 reported.
The rally, which took place at the gate of the church, included activists and family members of the deportees who carried pictures of their relatives.
Palestinian governorate of Bethlehem Kamel Hamid said: "The issue of the deportees is one for all Palestinians, not only an issue of them and their families."
He called for the international community to put pressure on Israel to allow their return to families.
Fatah Secretary in Bethlehem Mohammad Al-Masri said: "We are here, in front of the church, to reiterate that we insist on their return to their beloved country."
He stressed that the families of the deportees are not alone, but all Palestinians stand with them.
Mother of Fahim Kanaan, who was deported to Gaza, said: "I hope I see my son, hug him and kiss him. I have met him only one time and it was in Turkey. I remember very often, mainly during these days of Ramadan."
Some 17 years ago, a group of Palestinian Fatah fighters hid inside the Church of Nativity and after 40 days of continuous Israeli siege, during which eight fighters and two Israeli soldiers were killed, Israel, Palestinian and EU officials agreed to deport them to Gaza and a number of EU countries.
Of them, 13 were deported to Europe and 26 were deported to Gaza.
In a statement, the deportees said that their situation is increasingly deteriorating as they miss their family members and endure travel bans.
They stressed, in the statement, that the Israeli measures against them amount to war crimes as they violate international law.
The deportees called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to file lawsuits at the ICC against Israel as it is preventing them from visiting their families and keeping them out of their homeland.
They also called for their situation to be included in any prisoner swap deal which is negotiated with Israel.