TEL AVIV (Feb. 11)
Israel has agreed to accept 101 Moslem refugees from wartorn Bosnia and settle them temporarily in two Israeli Arab villages until the fighting subsides in their own country.
The suggestion to allow Bosnian Moslem refugees entry into Israel was first raised some six months ago by Knesset member Yossi Sarid, now minister of the environment, during a visit to Zagreb.
Various Arab Israeli groups, including members of the Arab Israeli Islamic movement, have also backed the idea.
Last week, the Council of Mayors of Arab Towns and Villages received approval for the plan from the government.
A delegation of the Council of Arab Mayors is to go to Zagreb at the beginning of next week and escort the refugees back to Israel.
The 25 families will be flown from Zagreb to Israel aboard a plane put at their disposal by the French government and arranged at the urging of French Jewish organizations led by Jacques Kahn, chairman of the European Jewish Congress.
The refugees will be given open-ended tourist visas to Israel, as well as work permits.
The Housing Ministry will be supplying mobile homes for the families, who will be hosted in the two Israeli Arab towns of Umm el-Fahm and Tira.
Until the homes are ready, the refugees will be housed in a school in the nearby kibbutz of Ma’agan Michael.
A spokesman for the Bosnian authorities welcomed the move, but stressed that the Bosnia-Herzegovina government did want to encourage emigration.
“We welcome anybody trying to help our refugees, but are certain that the refugees themselves will return home to Bosnia as soon as the situation quiets down,” the spokesman said.