10 Palestinians to be returned

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The Independent Online
MARJ AL-ZOHOUR - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said yesterday it was trying to arrange for 10 Palestinians wrongly expelled by Israel to return home tomorrow. The Palestinians are among more than 400 deportees stranded in an icy tent camp between the Lebanese and Israeli armies. The others began their third week in exile, some doubting they would see their families or homes in 1993.

Israel has said 10 of the Palestinians were expelled by mistake and could return home.

'Sunday is the target for getting the 10 deportees back home,' said Bernard Pfefferle, the ICRC's chief delegate in Lebanon. 'We still have the logistics to work out but we hope to get in from one (Lebanese) end, collect them at the camp and return them home through the Zemraya crossing point.' He was speaking to reporters at a Lebanese army checkpoint two miles north of the camp in a no man's land in south Lebanon.

The soldiers barred Mr Pfefferle from entering and contacts were underway with Beirut to allow him into the camp. He said he wanted to see the 10 to make sure all wanted to return.

Israel and Lebanon are refusing to allow food, medicine and water to reach the Palestinians through their lines. They have also barred the deportees from crossing into their territory.

The Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik al-Hariri, said Beirut was willing to discuss any plan on how the 10 could return home. He said the ICRC would also try to take out the sick and wounded deportees. 'You can't just take out 10 healthy people and leave six sick and wounded.'

Israel said yesterday it opposed a fresh ICRC appeal to let humanitarian aid through its lines to the deportees unless Lebanon agreed to do the same.

After a chilly night the deportees took advantage of sunshine to wash clothes and to repair their tents. They put snow on lamb chops, smuggled to them by Muslim guerrillas, to keep them fresh.

Omar Farwana, head of the camp's medical team, said two wounded Palestinians were getting better but that Zuheir Labbadeh, who suffers from kidney failure, was 'in real danger'.