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Jordan Holds Up Scheduled Return of Arab Refugees to West Bank Homes

The resettlement of additional Jordanian refugees on the west bank of the Jordan River, originally scheduled to begin Sunday, has been postponed until Thursday, Sept. 21. Jordan authorities informed Israel and International Red Cross officials yesterday, that they were not yet “ready” to allow former residents of the west bank to start re-crossing the river, despite an agreement reached Friday between Israeli and Jordanian representatives meeting on the Allenby Bridge.

According to the agreement, 6,500 former west bank residents, whose questionnaires had been approved by Israel and who had failed to make the crossing before the earlier, August 31 deadline, were set to begin moving back to the west bank area today. Their unwillingness to return is believed to be the cause of the delay. According to Israeli sources, the refugees, who fled east across the Jordan to escape the war, were reluctant to go back and become, as Jordan’s King Hussein has exhorted them, “thorns in Israel’s flesh.” “All the refugees want is tranquility; therefore they prefer to stay on the east bank,” observers report. It is believed the new date, Thursday, was set in order to give Jordan time to hunt up the reluctant refugees and “persuade” them to return to the west bank.

Israeli authorities, meanwhile, started today to dismantle the special structures which had been prepared for the resumption of refugee traffic across the Jordan. A first group of 500 had been expected; tents were put up on the Israeli side of the river; ambulances were on hand; and a fleet of buses was ready, instead of the trucks previously used, to transport the refugees to their homes. In spite of the postponement of the crossing date, Israeli authorities said they were still prepared to honor their commitments to accept the refugees.

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