Israel Agrees to Let Unrwa Help Palestinian Refugees in South Lebanon

Some 8,000 tents will be shipped this week from Pakistan to Lebanon by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to help solve the immediate housing problems of Palestinian refugees in southern Lebanon, Yaacov Meridor, minister in charge of the refugee problem in Lebanon, told reporters here.

Meridor, who is also Minister of Economics, said there are some 30,000 refugees without adequate housing in the area under Israel control. They are from refugee camps in Sidon, Rashidiye and Tyre. The refugee camps, which Israel said contained armed Palestinian terrorists as well as refugee families, were heavily damaged in the fighting.

Most of the families left as the fighting continued and the terrorists used the camps as sites from which to attack Israeli forces. Israel has always been critical of UNRWA, which was set up in 1949, accusing it of allowing terrorists to operate the camps as training bases.

Meridor said Israel had no choice but to ask for UNRWA’s help to solve the immediate housing problem before winter sets in because the Lebanese government had refused Israel’s request that it resettle the refugees in permanent housing, not in the old refugee camps. The Lebanese government insisted instead, Meridor said, that the refugees be transferred outside of Lebanon.

ESTIMATED COST OF RESETTLEMENT

Meridor emphasized that Israel had not wanted to ask for UNRWA’s help because that agency provided aid that allowed the PLO to function in the refugee camps. Under the circumstances, he said, Israel had no choice. He estimated that it would cost $100 million for the preliminary resettlement of the refugees. Most of this money would have to come from the U.S. and other countries and from charity organizations in Europe which have already agreed to participate in this venture. He said the U.S. will provide $65 million of the total.

Peter McPherson, President Reagan’s special coordinator of Lebanon relief and head of the Agency for International Development (AID), has been assigned to go to Lebanon to coordinate the effort. The Reagan Administration was reported last month to have provided a special allocation of $15 million, and Congress was to have provided another $50 million.

Meridor said Israel has allocated millions of Shekels to help relocate the refugees and for their medical treatment. In the long run, he said, the problem of the refugees must be solved by either settling them in Lebanese cities or by transferring them to other Arab countries.

He noted that Lebanon cannot host the 30,000 refugees, particularly after the bitter experience of the civil war. Meridor expressed confidence that the Arab countries would be willing to absorb the Refugees because they have a shortage of workers.

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