The Washington Post picked up the story today, and added some details.
Israel sent back the first group of 48 African refugees through the Karm Abu Salim, or Kerem Shalom, crossing with Egypt late Saturday night, Egyptian and Israeli officials confirmed. Egypt said the deportees included refugees from Darfur.
Israel apparently expelled them without hearings, in contravention of a refugee accord it has signed that requires countries to determine whether deportation will subject asylum-seekers to mistreatment, said Ben-Dor, the Israeli refugee lawyer.
More than half the members of Israel's parliament, including opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, signed a petition earlier this month urging Israel not to send the refugees back to Egypt.
"The refugees need protection and sanctuary and the Jewish people's history as well as democratic and humanitarian values make it a moral imperative for us to give them that shelter," the Israeli lawmakers wrote.
"The expulsion is an inhumane act that violates international law," said lawmaker Dov Khenin of the Hadash party, according to the Haaretz newspaper Web site.
I have absolutely no sympathy for Israel in this situation. A country founded by a people fleeing from genocidal violence simply cannot turn away those fleeing from murderous ethnic violence of their own. That they have done so in violation of refugee conventions makes the crime even worse. If Israel feels there is a potential security threat (and I've read nothing to that effect), then it should grant temporary sanctuary while negotiating third-party asylum. Sending them back is not an option.
I am intrigued by the break-down of who is lining up where on this issue within the Israeli political establishment. The Hadash party is an Arab-dominated anti-Zionist Marxist party (and a relatively small one at that, with three seats in the Knesset). On the other hand, Bibi Netanyahu is chairman of the mainline conservative Likud Party, and not one I'd expect to see speaking out in favor of the rights of Muslim refugees. The government of Israel is currently a center-left coalition, and I can't imagine there is strong support within it to send these refugees back. Since the article says that more than half of Knesset members have spoken out in opposition to the planned expulsion, there remains hope that there could be a reversal of the Israeli position on this. I hope there is, because the current stance is not just embarrassing, it's criminal.