The Arab League is backing protests against a new Israeli military order it is claimed threatens tens of thousands of Palestinians with deportation from the West Bank.
Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah to denounce the measure, which human rights groups say puts at risk anyone who does not hold an Israeli permit.
But the Israelis deny they intend to carry out mass expulsions.
“We are talking about a handful of cases, less than ten a year, of people who have entered the West Bank with a visa and whose visa has expired. Having overstayed their visas they are liable for repatriation,” said Yigal Palmor, Israeli Foreign ministry spokesman.
The Arab League held an emergency meeting in Cairo. It is considering possible counter measures against the order, which carries a potential seven year jail sentence.
“We call on the Palestinian people and the Palestinian authority to reject such measures, because this will imprison the Palestinian people inside their villages in the West Bank”, said the League’s Secretary General Amr Moussa.
The broad wording of the order has attracted international criticism. Egypt says it totally rejects the Israeli decision, while France says it is very concerned, calling for the residential rights of Palestinians to be respected.