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Cabinet Bars Return of Arabs to Border Villages Evacuated in ’48

The Cabinet ruled by a majority decision today not to permit the former residents of Ikrit and Baram villages to return to the sites of their former homes in a security zone established along the Lebanese border in 1949. The Cabinet thus upheld the contention of Israeli military authorities that the security considerations that warranted the evacuation of the Arab villages 25 years ago remain valid.

Cabinet Secretary Reuven Aloni refused to tell newsmen after the Cabinet meeting which ministers opposed the majority decision or which, if any, abstained. It was generally believed that the two Mapam ministers were opposed. The villagers’ claim to return to their old lands was supported by Archbishop Joseph Raya of the Greek Catholic (Maronite) church to which most of the Baram and Ikrit people belong. Raya had brought the matter directly to Premier Golda Meir’s attention and subsequently agreed to her proposal to abide by whatever the Cabinet would decide. The Government agreed to continue efforts to compensate the villagers for their lost property and to relocate those not satisfied with their present dwellings.

According to Aloni the Cabinet considered the villagers’ claims carefully and heard detailed testimony from Israeli officials. These included States Attorney Meir Shamgar, who related the legal history of the affair; Shmuel Toledano, the Premier’s Arab affairs expert who discussed the political and social aspects of the case; and Army Chief of Staff Gen. David Elazar who explained the security considerations. Ikrit and Baram surrendered to the Israeli Army in Oct. 1948 and the inhabitants of both villages were evacuated.

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