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Israel Sends Bedouin Tribe to Egypt

March 23, 1999

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Israeli army put some 600 Bedouins on buses and sent them back to Egypt on Tuesday, one week after the nomadic group crossed the border illegally and lost a court battle to stay.

Members of the same tribe who live in Israel held up black flags in mourning as they watched the deportation.

Brig. Gen. Yehiel Gozal, who was in charge of the military operation, said the group went peacefully.

Men, women and children of the el-Azazme tribe crossed the thinly guarded border between Egypt’s Sinai desert and Israel on March 15. Some were riding camels or donkeys. Others came on foot with herds of sheep in tow.

The Bedouin said they fled Egypt because they were accused of murdering a member of another tribe and feared a blood feud.

The army supplied them with food, water, blankets and medical treatment but kept them in a fenced-off encampment while relatives appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court to allow the group to stay.

Sunday, the court ruled against the request.

``If they had applied through the official channels, through our embassy in Cairo or by any other means, perhaps the matter could have been arranged, but they can’t just invade the country,″ said Defense Minister Moshe Arens.

He said Egyptian officials had promised to protect the Bedouins from any harm upon its return.

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