The whereabouts in Belgium of exiled Palestinian Khalil Mohammed Abdullah Nawareh remain shrouded in secrecy owing to concerns for his safety and public order.
Khalil Mohammed Abdullah Nawareh, 24, whom the Israeli government describes as a junior Tanzim operative, was one of 13 alleged Palestinian militants exiled to Europe as part of an EU-brokered deal to end the five-week Church of the Nativity standoff in Bethlehem. Eleven others have been taken in by Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland and Portugal, while one remains in Cyprus until his destination is decided.
Chawki Armali, the Palestinian Authority's representative in Brussels, has been allowed to visit Nawareh. “He's in good spirits considering the situation he's in. He spoke to his family on the phone while I was there and explained to them what was going on,” Armali told me.
Nawareh is being granted asylum in Belgium for an initial 12-month period, during which time he is not allowed to enter other EU countries. His movements are currently being strictly controlled and monitored – an arrangement which may be eased if it is seen not to compromise his safety or public order, a government spokesman said.
The ultimate fate of Nawareh and the other 12 exiles, however, remains unclear. Under Belgian law, Nawareh may apply for permanent asylum, but it is far from certain if he would get it as some opposition figures have already voiced their opposition to his presence. Meanwhile, the EU is expected to review their longer-term status at a later date.
Israel, which blames the men for terrorist attacks against its citizens, has indicated that it will not allow them back into the occupied Palestinian territories. Palestinian diplomats, who say there is no hard evidence connecting the exiles with terrorist attacks, hope to be able to repatriate them once the political environment is again conducive to dialogue.
This article appeared in the 30 May 2002 issue of The Bulletin.