Israel Prepares for Return of Arab Refugees to West Bank Areas

Israeli officials began work today on procedures to permit the return of West Bank Arabs under new liberalized regulations approved by the Cabinet. An earlier order permitting their return up to August 10 was liberalized with the announcement that while the August 10 date was the deadline for filing applications, there would be no time limit for the actual return.

The applications will be distributed in Jordan by the International Red Cross. Former West Bank residents who fled to areas other than Jordan may also apply for re-entry to the West Bank but their return will be subject to Israel’s regulations for reunification of families. Israel will not admit persons considered to be security risks or criminals likely to disturb the peace. Israeli officials expressed the hope that the return of the Arabs will begin soon after August 10.

(In Geneva, the International Red Cross said today it had named delegations in four Israeli-held Arab areas to aid the Arabs. Israel has given the IRC free access to the areas without special permission. The Red Cross officials have been authorized to collect family messages freely in all areas under Israeli control and to transmit them to Arab countries. They also will undertake individual inquiries and reunification of families.

(Nils-Goran Gussing, newly-appointed United Nations specialist on refugee problems, arrived in Paris today en route to the Middle East as Secretary-General U Thant’s personal representative on the welfare of Arab refugees and war prisoners.)

Proof of permanent residence in the West Bank prior to June 6, when Jordan was knocked out of the brief war, will have to be submitted with applications for return. A spokesman said no decision had yet been made regarding West Bank residents who left for the East Bank on business or for similar reasons before the war broke out on June 5 and were stuck there.

Israeli officials have begun selection of the Jordan River points at which the refugees will be permitted to enter West Bank territory and to arrange customs and health controls there and transportation facilities. Work has already begun on repairing the Allenby Bridge which is expected to be a major crossing point.

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