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Israel May Consider Return of Arabs to Border Villages Evacuated 25 Year Ago

Israel officials appeared today to be giving consideration to allowing the return of some 1000 protesting Arab villagers to the sites of two Israel-Lebanese villages which were evacuated and razed as a security measure during the 1948 War for Independence. About 100 of the former inhabitants of Ikrit, one of the two villages, staged sit-down strike last Thursday at the home of the Greek Catholic Archbishop, Joseph Raya, to protest the refusal of Israeli authorities to allow retain to Ikrit and to Baram, the other evacuated border village.

The protesters ended their demonstration when the Archbishop told them he had received word that Acting Premier Yigal Allon would meet with a delegation the next day. The Deputy Premier met with some of the demonstrators and with the Archbishop in Haifa on Friday and said the matter of their return to the two villages would have to be decided on by Premier Golda Meir on her return from her current visit to an International Socialist conference in Vienna. He did not mention rumors that Israeli authorities might allow the return of the villagers to the sites under certain conditions.

The Deputy Premier told the group that 24 years had passed since the villagers were evacuated in the heat of battle during the war and rehabilitated elsewhere. He added that “now that the problem of their return” to the area had come up, Mrs. Meir would have to study the problem and find a solution. He stressed that the issue would not be reviewed under threats of pressure or violence.

Sources said that some 600 residents were evicted from Ikrit and 800 from Baram, two Maronite villages. They said the eviction was a necessity during the 1948 war because the area was then considered a security zone.

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