Israel Resumes Work on Water Project; Inciting Arabs Arrested

Work was resumed today in the Beit Netofa area under a heavy police guard on excavations for a water pipeline after police made a series of night arrests of Arabs who were trying to incite Arab villagers to oppose the excavation work by force. The excavation proceeded this morning without incident although some tension was reported among the Arab villagers.

Work on the project, a key part of the Jordan River-Negev irrigation project, was suspended because of Arab objections to the pipeline’s passage through their land holdings. The Haifa District Court rejected yesterday an appeal by 21 of the landowners against a condemnation order issued by the Israel Water Authority for parts of the area needed for the pipeline. The court also rejected the villagers’ request for an appeal to a higher court.

Jewish and Arab farmers owning land along four miles of the proposed pipeline route have sold land to the Government at an agreed price of $467 an acre but Arabs owning the rest of the area needed for the pipeline declined to sell. The Ministry of Finance then used its authority to expropriate the required right-of-way. The Government went into court to obtain a recovery of property order when the recalcitrant Arab farmers refused to comply.

The timetable calls for digging six miles by October when winter rains will halt the work. Digging and concrete work is expected to be finished next summer. Work on all components, which includes tunnels, canals, reservoirs, pumping and booster stations, is due to end simultaneously at the close of the 1963-64 fiscal year. Then an annual flow of 235,000,000 cubic yards of water from the Jordan River to the Negev is expected to start with an ultimate capacity of more than 400,000,000 cubic yards.

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