The petitioners warn that the removal of the refugees – most of whom are children – will put them in mortal danger.
"We appeal to the State … to avoid deporting 700 immigrants from South Sudan, an act that would expose them to a raging war, hunger and disease," the petitioners wrote.
Among the high-profile signatories were writers Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, singer Yehudit Ravitz and actors Hanna Maron and Moshe Ivgy.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai ordered the Sudanese refugees to leave of their own accord by the end of March. After the deadline, the minister said, the government is to take measures to remove them from the country by force.
In the petition, the protesters wrote: "How can a state that marks Holocaust Remembrance Day every year, a state whose majority of residents were refugees once and experienced racist prosecution, not come to the aid of other refugees?"
'Heartbreaking fate awates them'
Writer Zeruya Shalev, who signed the letter as well, appealed to the prime minister's emotions, arguing that the refugees must be granted asylum.
"Israel has saved the lives of the refugees from South Sudan thus far, and should continue to act mercifully and avoid sending them to a place where their lives are in danger," she said.
"The thought of what's expecting them there is heartbreaking. We ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to suspend the deportation ruling until the situation in their new state improves and allows them to return safely."
Professor Daniel Blatman, a Holocaust researcher and the head of the Hebrew University's Institute of Contemporary Jewry, noted that the escalating conflict between South Sudan and Sudan has seen much bloodshed.
"This is a group of 700 people, more than half of whom are children, who ask us to give them aid and protection until they can securely return to their homes," he said. "It is out moral duty to grant this request."
Meanwhile, a report compiled by the Knesset's Research and Information Center shows that a humanitarian crisis prevails in 46 out of 79 districts in South Sudan. The adversity includes food shortage and violence. The report, which is based on data collected by the United Nations, also found that roughly half of the population in South Sudan will suffer from hunger over the coming year.
Also according to the report, the United States has announced recently it would extend the protection it has granted to refugees from the African country until May 2013.
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