False dawn of hope for nine deportees

IYAD ZEINEDIN should have woken up in his Nablus home this morning. So should his friend Said Amr. And across the West Bank and Gaza Strip seven other men whom Israel now admits it expelled by mistake, should have been celebrating their first day of freedom after almost three frozen weeks on a Lebanese mountainside. But Mr Zeinedin, Mr Amr and the others will find themselves still shivering in a rain-soaked tent with 402 other Palestinians deported by Israel in contravention of international law last month.

The Red Cross was to have flown the nine men home in a United Nations helicopter in the same way that they took 16-year old Bassem Siouri back to Israel on Saturday - and the same way they tried to take Zohair Lobbadeh home, too, only the Israelis would not let the sick man cross their border. Instead, Mr Lobbadeh - who suffers from a kidney malfunction - was packed off by Israel to a hospital in the Israeli-occupied area of southern Lebanon, scarcely 10 miles from the camp in which he had been living. Only Mr Siouri made it home to his overjoyed family in Hebron.

Yesterday, however, it was Rafiq Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister, who changed the Palestinians' travel plans, announcing that Saturday's flight had been a 'mercy mission' in which the Red Cross had exceeded their mandate; if the nine further Palestinians were to go home, he said, the Israelis would have to take them back through the Zommariya crossing-point a mile from the Palestinians' camp, not receive them in a UN helicopter.

The distinction may seem cruel - petty, to say the least - but the Palestinians trapped in the frost between the Israelis and Lebanese front lines fully understood its meaning. If the Israelis were to be forced to adhere to international law, they would have to reverse the expulsions in the same way that they carried them out - by bringing the Palestinians back through the same checkpoint where they were dumped into Lebanon. It would be Lebanon, not Israel, which decided such movement on Lebanese territory.

That is the theory. In the sleet that cascaded down on the tarpaulin encampment yesterday, the Palestinians were digging ditches around their tents to prevent floods of icy water pouring over the rocks into their damp homes, hauling plastic containers of fresh water along the broken road from the nearest stream, and dragging long-disused telegraph poles to turn into firewood. On one mountainside, the exiled men were climbing up through the mud to fill buckets from an animals' drinking trough.

'I suppose you think we're fanatics, extremists, madmen, don't you?' an old man with a full white beard remarked bitterly. 'We know our situation from the radio. You people will bomb Iraq for the UN but you won't help us when Israel ignores the UN.'

The Palestinians have had time to philosophise upon their plight. They cluster round the few transistors they have been given by local villagers, tuning ceaselessly from Beirut radio to Damascus, to Israel, to the BBC.

Iyad Zeinedin and Said Amr and their colleagues had woken yesterday elated at their imminent freedom. 'Of course I was ready to go,' Mr Zeinedin said coldly. 'I have no baggage. Nothing but myself. I slept well and prepared myself to go home. But now I feel very little. It was a false hope.'

JERUSALEM - Israel's Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, yesterday rejected an appeal by a UN envoy to bring home the Palestinian deportees, Reuter reports. The UN Secretary- General, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, has said that he would recommend further unspecified steps if the mission by the envoy, Chinmaya Gharekhan, failed.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test