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Israel Ready to Allow Red Cross to Supply Relief Aid to Deportees

In a further softening of its position, Israel will allow Red Cross officials to supply humanitarian aid through Israeli-controlled territory to more than 400 Palestinians it expelled to Lebanon last month.

Israeli officials apparently hope the humanitarian gesture will weaken efforts at the United Nations to impose sanctions against Israel because of its failure to comply with a Dec. 18 Security Council resolution calling for the return of the deportees.

But outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger warned Thursday that there would be “more pressure in the Security Council” for sanctions against Israel unless it found some resolution to the fate of the deportees, who are stranded on a stretch of land in southern Lebanon between Israeli and Lebanese military checkpoints.

“It ought to be clear to everybody now, as (the Palestinians) sit out there in their snowcovered tents that this just can’t go on much longer,” Eagleburger was quoted as telling reporters aboard a flight from Paris, where he had attended a conference on chemical weapons.

“I recognize how tough it is for the Israelis right now, but sooner or later they are going to have to find some solution to the problem,” he said.

“The longer it takes, the more there’s going to be pressure in the Security Council to enforce the resolution, and that puts the Israelis and us and a lot of other people in an awkward spot.”

SIX OTHERS EXPELLED IN ERROR

Meanwhile, Israel’s agreement to the relief mission is contingent on reaching an understanding with the Lebanese government, according to a report in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.

Last weekend, in a test of wills with Jerusalem, Lebanon barred access to a Red Cross helicopter seeking to bring back nine of the 10 deportees Israel said it had expelled by mistake.

But Lebanon did allow the return of Bassam Sayouri, a 16-year-old deported erroneously in an outright case of mistaken identity. An ill deportee also was flown by the Red Cross to a hospital in the Israeli-controlled border security zone in southern Lebanon.

If the relief mission goes forward this time, the Red Cross will be have another six names to add to the list of those expelled in error. The six have prison terms pending, disqualifying them for deportation.

Fifteen deportees will therefore be eligible for return on the same relief helicopter ferrying medication and water purification equipment to the deportees.

Relief officials will also be carrying power-of-attorney forms for deportees who wish appeals to be filed on their behalf to military appeal boards in Israel.

For the longer term, one proposal has the deportees spending the rest of their exile of up to two years in a North African country, according to a report in the Israeli mass-circulation daily Yediot Achronot.

French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas is to mediate with the country involved on the issue, the report said. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met in Paris this week with Dumas and U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

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