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Hundreds of Christians Flee From Moslems to Israeli Zone With PM-Lebanon, Bjt; this story

April 29, 1985

Hundreds of Christians Flee From Moslems to Israeli Zone With PM-Lebanon, Bjt; this story also moved AMs

QLAIA, Lebanon (AP) _ Hundreds of Christian refugees jammed into this small village just north of the Israeli border after fleeing from homes that had been overrun by Palestinian and Moslem gunmen.

″I can’t go back. Everything was burned, even the church,″ said Rashid Simon, a 57-year-old physician from Mieh Mieh, a Christian village on a hill overlooking Sidon. ″Do you think I can get a job in Israel?″

The refugees arrived Sunday in cars and trucks piled high with rugs, furniture, suitcases and other belongings. Horns honked wildly as Israeli- backed militiamen from the South Lebanon Army tried in vain to unscramble huge traffic jams on Qlaia’s main street and around the village church.

The Israeli army distributed blankets and food as Lebanese militiamen tried to find housing for families who had fled a string of Christian villages around the Moslem city of Sidon, 18 miles northwest of here.

Cesar Saqr, spokesman for the South Lebanon Army, told a reporter about 1,500 refugees had arrived in the past two days and were sheltered in Qlaia and a half-dozen nearby Christian villages.

Lt. Col. Dani, an Israeli army spokesman, said 150 families - comprising about 990 people - had arrived in Qlaia from seven villages around Sidon that had been taken over by Palestinians. In keeping with Israeli military regulations, Dani did not give his last name.

Hanna Matta and other refugees said Palestinian gunmen had burned apartments and the church in Mieh Mieh. Matta said 10 residents of the village were killed.

″We hope, we ask from our hearts that the Israeli army will help us, the Christian people, because the Lebanese government does not care about us,″ Matta, 59, said, as his wife stood beside him and wept. President (Amin) Gemayel,″ Matta said, stamping his foot, ″is nothing 3/8″

Palestinian and Lebanese Moslem militiamen overran the Christian villages around Sidon after Christian militiamen withdrew late last week.

″The Lebanese Army and the Phalange (Christian fighters) left us on our own. They left us without even a gun,″ Matta said. ″I don’t want to live in Lebanon any more.″ He said he was ready to go ″anywhere else - America, Europe, Australia - I don’t care.″

Saqr said the Qlaia area lacked the medical supplies, food, housing, bedding and employment to take care of the thousands of refugees he expected to arrive in Israeli-occupied south Lebanon in the next few days.

″There are more coming every hour,″ the militia spokesman added. ″We cannot kick them out. They came in an hour of need and we have to help them.″

Tens of thousands of refugees are reported to have crowded into Jezzine, a Christian town of 20,000 vacated by the Israeli Army in its pullback last Wednesday. But many of the refugees in Qlaia, 21/2 miles north of the Israeli border, said they feared Jezzine also would fall to the Moslem forces.

Israeli military sources in Tel Aviv said Sunday that the South Lebanon Army had already pulled out of Jezzine. There was no indication that Israel would intervene to save the Christians, who have traditionally been allies of the Jewish state.

The military sources, speaking on condition they were not identified, said Israel would act only if its own border was threatened.

This position was outlined by former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, a minister without portfolio in the Cabinet.

″I am sure we will do all possible in the humanitarian sphere,″ he said on Israeli Television. ″I assume none of us is indifferent to what happens and we will want to help, but without endangering our soldiers or residents.″

Ten wounded Christians evacuated from the Sidon area were undergoing treatment Sunday at the Israeli-staffed clinic in Marjayoun, headquarters of the South Lebanon Army.

Three others, who required surgery for bullet and shrapnel wounds, were taken from Marjayoun to the northern Israeli town of Safad, according to the local hospital spokesman, Dr. Kelin Schapira.

Update hourly