JERUSALEM (Jan. 3)
Israel is ready to take back 10 Moslem fundamentalists deported in error to Lebanon, but a dispute over the route by which they should travel kept them stranded Sunday night between Israeli- and Lebanese-held territory.
Lebanon refused to allow them to travel through its own territory, insisting Israel reopen a crossing in Israeli-controlled southern Lebanon.
“We shall not allow the International Red Cross to return them through Lebanese territory,” said Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. “Israel must accept them through the crossing point they came from.”
The 10 were among 415 Moslem fundamentalist activists deported to Lebanon on Dec. 17 after the murders of five Israeli servicemen.
Nine of the men have charges pending against them and face trial, a circumstance that disqualifies them for deportation. A 10th is a case of mistaken identity.
Israel suggested the 10 be flown back aboard a U.N. helicopter.
The rest of the deportees, meanwhile, have rejected an offer extended by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to allow them to return home within nine months in exchange for dropping intifada activities.
They said they preferred returning at once with almost certain imprisonment to the prospect of remaining outside the administered territories.
RELAXES STANCE ON RELIEF AID
Israel has also softened its insistence that the government of Lebanon is solely responsible for the welfare of the deportees.
In a message to the Red Cross, Rabin said Jerusalem might consider giving medical assistance at the Marjayoun hospital in Israeli-controlled southern Lebanon to deportees faced with life-threatening illnesses.
Israeli medical authorities would consider only those cases recommended by Red Cross physicians, he said.
This relaxation in the Israeli position came in the wake of an assessment at the political level that refusal by Jerusalem to extend humanitarian aid to the deportees would worsen Israel’s standing at the United Nations.
The U.N. Security Council is expected to hear a report on the expelled men this week from special U.N. envoy James Jonah.
The Arab states, supported by non-aligned countries, are reportedly seeking to impose U.N. sanctions against Israel if it fails to take back the expelled Moslem fundamentalist activists.
On the legal front, the government told Israel’s High Court of Justice over the weekend that it should not be compelled to allow relief aid to the deportees through the Israeli buffer zone in southern Lebanon.
It asked the court to turn down an appeal by Knesset member Abdel Wahab Darawshe, on the grounds that the deportees were not in danger and were receiving aid from other sources.
The Lebanese army has closed off the area around the deportees’ encampment, but vehicles and people from the outside are reaching the camp freely, according to the testimony of a senior intelligence officer.
Moreover, many deportees are seen leaving the camp at night for a nearby village.