JERUSALEM (Aug. 31)
With the deadline for readmission of Arab refugees from the east bank of the Jordan River to the Israeli-occupied west bank expiring today, the Government decided this morning that final action on the question of how long to extend the repatriation deadline and for whom should be taken at the next Cabinet meeting, to be held Sunday.
Meanwhile, as the time expired, military engineers started late this afternoon to tear down the special installations on the Allenby bridge, and on other east-west spans, which Israel had erected on its side of the river for the special purpose of handling the incoming refugees. Gen. Moshe Dayan, the Minister of Defense, had ordered earlier that those installations be destroyed as soon as the August 31 deadline had expired.
Some reports had indicated that the deadline for certain of the refugees — the 10,000 who hold valid return permits, approved by Israel — would be extended until September 15, while other reports held that the deadline would be abolished altogether. None of those reports, however, is accurate at this point, the final decision being up to the entire Cabinet.
(In Washington, the State Department indicated that the United States — which, along with United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, had pressed Israel for elimination of the deadline — was not happy about the present situation regarding the refugees. A State Department spokesman said the U.S.A. would prefer Israeli agreement for the return of all the refugees from the east bank to the western river area, estimating those refugees at about 170,000.)
Meanwhile, it was learned here today that the Government has decided to establish “control centers” manned by army units in the west bank area. The decision, it was disclosed, had been taken by the Cabinet, and may have far-reaching consequences. The “control centers” are reportedly to be linked to some of Israel’s principal cities by newly-built roads to crisscross the entire west bank area. Under the plans, roads in the west bank area destroyed during the Six-Day War will also be rebuilt in the near future.