Palestine question – Displaced Arabs return to their village – Press release


Department of Public Information

Press and Publications Bureau

Lake Success, New York

Press Release PAL/537

4 November 1949


(The following was received from the UN Press Officer in Jerusalem.)

The return of some 200 Arabs to the native village of Wadi Fukin near Bethlehem yesterday crowned a settlement under United Nations auspices of a three-month dispute between Arabs and Jews.

The dispute arose on 15 July when the Israeli Army expelled the population of Wadi Fukin after the village had been transferred to the Israeli-occupied area under the terms of the Armistice Agreement concluded between Israel and the Jordan Kingdom.  The Jordan Kingdom complained against this action to the Israeli-Jordan Mixed Armistice Commission comprising two Arab and two Israeli representatives and with a United Nations Chairman from the Observer Corps of Chief of Staff Brigadier-General William E. Riley.

The Mixed Armistice Commission decided on 31 August, by a majority vote, that Israel had violated the Armistice Agreement by expelling villagers across the demarcation line and decided that they should be allowed to return to their homes.

However, when the villagers returned to Wadi Fukin under the supervision of the United Nations observers on September 6, they found most of their houses destroyed and were again compelled by the Israeli Army to return to Arab territory.

The Israeli authorities claimed that the Mixed Armistice Commission had exceeded its authority by ordering Israel to permit the return of expelled Arabs to their native village.

The United Nations Chairman of the Mixed Commission, Colonel Garrison B. Coverdale (US), pressed for a solution of this issue to be found in the Mixed Armistice Commission, in an amicable and UN spirit.  After some hesitation, this procedure was accepted and finally an agreement was reached whereby the Armistice line was changed to give back Wadi Fukin to the Arabs who, in turn, agreed to transfer some uninhabited, but fertile territory south of Bethlehem to the Israelis.

Mixed survey teams of Arabs and Israelis with United Nations observers worked untiringly last week to lay out new demarcation lines and yesterday as a result of this agreement, men of Wadi Fukin, who with their families have been spending the past three months in Red Cross refugee camps, returned to their village.  In view of the fact that most of the houses there were destroyed, the Red Cross permitted them to take tents from the camp to the village.

The women and children of Wadi Fukin are scheduled to return home today.  Village Mukh dar (Mayor)  Barkhan told a United Nations representative observing the return — "Please tell thank you to the United Nations in name of the people of Wadi Fukin."

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