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Expelled Palestinians Turned Over to Marxist Group

January 14, 1988

RASHAYA, Lebanon (AP) _ The Lebanese army delivered four Arabs expelled from Israeli-occupied territories to a Marxist faction of Palestinian guerrillas on Thursday, police reported.

The army had intended to return the men to Israeli-held territory in south Lebanon despite a reported Israeli threat to shoot them, but changed plans when Israel shut all crossings into the ″security zone″ it controls just inside Lebanon, the police said.

Israel flew the men into south Lebanon by helicopter Wednesday.

According to the report, the four Palestinian activists were turned over to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, led by Dr. George Habash. The PFLP is allied with Syria and opposes Yasser Arafat’s leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

It has several bases in the Bekaa Valley of eastern Lebanon, which is controlled by Syria. The group’s Bekaa spokesman, Walid Abul-Oyoun, told reporters the deportees ″will be accommodated at the PFLP’s base in Jlala,″ a village southwest of Zahle, provincial capital of the Bekaa.

Syria has about 25,000 soldiers stationed in the Bekaa and elsewhere in east and north Lebanon.

The U.N. Security Council called on Israel on Thursday to allow the four to return to their homes in the occupied West Bank. The resolution passed 14-0, with the United States abstaining.

Israeli Ambassador Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will ignore the resolution because it is unfair to his country and because Israel believes it has sole authority over the occupied territories.

Members of a Western television crew who returned to Beirut from the area confirmed the four were in Jlala.

Abul-Oyoun said: ″The international Red Cross has refused to take delivery of the four deportees and they have decided to stage a sit-in and begin a hunger strike at the Red Cross Jlala center at 10 a.m. Friday.″

Earlier Thursday, the men told reporters the Lebanese and Syrian armies informed them of a decision by Arab governments not to admit them to Lebanon or any other Arab country.

″We have been told to return to where we came from,″ said Jamal Mohammed Jibara, 24.

Bashir Ahmed al Kheiri said: ″Since there is an Arab decision against having us, we demand from the Arabs to give us an aircraft to fly us back into Palestine and it will be a suicide operation.″

They made the comments at midday at the military outpost of Marj al-Zohour, three miles north of the Israeli zone, a strip ranging in depth from 6 to 10 miles.

Marj al-Zohour is the closest Lebanese army checkpoint to the Zemraya crossing into the zone, where the helicopter left the four men Wednesday evening with $50.

Israel established the zone when it withdrew most of its military forces from south Lebanon in June 1985 after three years of occupation. It is controlled by Israeli soldiers and the 2,000-man South Lebanon Army, a predominantly Christian militia the Israelis train and finance.

″One Israeli officer advised us not to return to Zemraya, saying they have given the SLA orders to shoot us on sight if we show up again,″ Jibara said.

When the helicopter put the Palestinians down at Zemraya, they hired taxis and went to Rashaya, a town about two miles away in the foothills of Mount Hermon in the western Bekaa Valley.

A Syrian army representative met them and ″it was then that we were told of the (Arab) decision not to receive us,″ Jibara said.

″We demanded that we be turned over to the Palestine Liberation Organization or the International Red Cross to take us to another country outside Lebanon,″ Al Kheiri said, but did not give the response.

Israel accused the four Palestinians of incitement in the violence that began Dec. 8 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which the Israelis captured from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war. About 1.5 million Palestinians live in the occupied territories.

The men were expelled after dropping their appeals of the deportation orders, calling the Israeli military review of their cases ″an illegal charade.″ Five other Palestinians still are appealing deportation orders.

Jabril Mahmoud Rujub, another of the deportees, told a news conference before dawn Thursday at the Lebanese army barracks in Rashaya that refusing to accept them ″is a decision the Arab world should be ashamed of.″

Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, the three Arab countries bordering Israel, contended the decision would discourage Israel from expelling Palestinians.

The fourth deportee is Hussam Abdul Rahman Khader.

Update hourly