TEL AVIV (Feb. 28)
Israel Radio reported today that a group of Palestinians in Lebanon have declared their readiness to make peace with Israel in order to “put an end to what we have been suffering for 34 years.”
According to the report, about 70 Palestinians, including professionals and the chiefs of refugee camps, attended a meeting in Sidon yesterday to call for peace with Israel. The leader of the group, who asked not to be identified, was quoted as saying, “Israel, I think, must pay the price for peace. You must give us a chance to go back to living in Israel or to have citizenship either here in Lebanon or anywhere else.”
The person was quoted further as saying: “If Israeli officials are really willing to make peace, we are ready and we have the courage to sit down with them and find a solution.” He was scornful of the Palestine Liberation Organization “who ran away to Tunis or Algeria or wherever, we don’t care.”
Meanwhile, Ibrahim Nimr Hussein, chairman of the Committee of Local Arab Councils in Israel, has called on Israeli authorities to ensure the safety of Palestinians in south Lebanon or withdraw from Leban on altogether. Thousands of Israeli Arabs have applied for permission to go to Lebanon to visit relatives in refugee camps in the Sidon area where a number of Palestinians have been found murdered in recent weeks.
The Interior Ministry is reluctant to grant permits on grounds that it is not safe to travel in Lebanon. A number of Israeli Arabs have disappeared without trace after entering Lebanon to visit relatives.
Israel Radio reported that the Israeli military authorities in Sidon have warned local political groups there to cease their harassment of Palestinians in and around the town. The radio quoted reliable sources as saying that representatives of these undisclosed groups were summoned to appear before Israeli officers and told that such activities would not be tolerated.
The Israel army is also said to have stepped up its patrols and checkpoints in areas inhabited by Palestinians, to prevent further incidents. According to reports from the area, a group calling itself the Voice of Sidon has been distributing leaflets calling on Palestinians to leave the area and return to refugee camps.