Israel to Dispatch Humanitarian, Medical Aid to War-torn Bosnia

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has begun making arrangement for the dispatch of humanitarian and medical aid to war-torn Bosnia-Hercegovina.

This marks the first public effort on the part of the Jewish state to address a tragic situation that Jews themselves have compared to their own history in the Holocaust.

“The reports of murder and suffering of those detained in Bosnia cannot but revolt everyone in the world to the depths of their souls, and especially Jews,” Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told the Knesset on Wednesday.

Meretz Knesset Member Yossi Sarid was scheduled to leave for the former Yugoslav state on Friday. He is expected to report on the situation there and to send for the relief supplies and a medical team when he thinks it safe to do so.

Sarid will head the Israeli delegation and oversee distribution of the supplies.

Yosef Hadass, director general of the Foreign Ministry, held a meeting today to lay down guidelines for the mercy mission. The meeting was attended by ministry officials and representatives of the Health and Labor Ministries, the Jewish Agency and the Kupat Holim Histadrut Sick Fund.

Hadass said he was receiving regular reports from the United Nations concerning the rapidly changing security situation in Bosnia, particularly in its capital, Sarajevo.

ISRAELI AID INTENDED FOR ALL IN NEED

He said he had received enough information from the United Nations and from European countries to assure him that the aid will arrive safely at its intended destination.

Israeli officials stress that the Israeli aid will be distributed to all individuals in need, regardless of whether they are Jews, Christians or Moslems.

Knesset Speaker Shevah Weiss asked Sarid to express the shock and pain of the Knesset, and of the citizens of Israel, over the atrocities being perpetrated against civilians in Bosnia. He also asked Sarid to take advantage of his stay there and encourage the Bosnian Jews to make aliyah.

The Knesset speaker also expressed his hope that the moral voice of Foreign Minister Peres in Yugoslavia and help speed the end of conflict there.

Likud member Dov Shilansky said the Knesset and the Jewish people have always demonstrated supreme sensitivity to any form of inhuman conduct.

He called on all the Jews of the former Yugoslavian state to disengage themselves from the “Pompeii complex of life near a volcano” and immigrate to Israel.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which has been involved since the beginning of May in relief efforts and in helping Jews escape from Bosnia, welcomed the news that Israel intends to join in the relief effort.

“We’re glad that the government of Israel is also making arrangements. But we are going to continue with our operations” said JDC Executive Vice President Michael Schneider in New York.

According to Schneider, there are some 400 Jews remaining in Bosnia.

During the first two-and-a-half weeks in May, said Schneider, the organization chartered airplanes and brought out in three flights some 600 Jews, 80 non-Jewish children and one Righteous Gentile family that had requested to go along. The planes flew to Belgrade from the Sarajevo airport, which was still open at the time.

The flights, Schneider added, had been arranged by members of the local community and JDC advisers, who had helped in negotiations with the governments of Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia.

He said that many of the Jews who did not fly out at the time had been “hoping for a lull. They thought the situation would get better.”

Describing the current situation in Bosnia as “pretty precarious” and noting that there is an increased presence of sniper fire and land mines, Schneider said that Jews are now attempting on their own initiative to leave the ravaged region on overland routes.

He noted that some 100 Jews were recently picked up in Split, the Croatian city located on the Dalmatian coast. These families, he said, have since been moved to other parts of Croatia, including the capital, Zagreb, where they are being provided with temporary housing.

Jewish families in Belgrade are also being provided with shelter and are being given the opportunity to leave for Israel.

Schneider added that trucks bearing some five tons of food have just managed to reach Sarajevo via precarious overland routes. He emphasized that the relief packages will be distributed on the basis of need, not religious affiliation.

He denied the presence of anti-Semitism in the Bosnian upheaval. “There is no evidence whatsoever of anything being directed specifically at Jews,” he said. “But what we are worried about is Jews being caught in a cross fire in a situation in which they are totally neutral.”

(JTA correspondent Mitchell Danow in New York contributed to this report.)

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