WASHINGTON (Dec. 30)
Israel diplomatic sources in Washington today were without information on reports that the Israel freighter, “Bat Galim” will be released by Egypt provided it sails toward the Red Sea rather than the Mediterranean so that it does not pass through the Suez Canal.
State Department sources made known that confirmation has been received that Egypt is willing to release the ship but only on condition that it does not use the Suez Canal for the completion of its voyage. When seized, the ship was bound north through the Canal, steaming for Haifa, its home port. Word has been received in government circles that Egypt is willing to release the “Bat Galim” crew but no information is available as to the proposed time of release.
Speculation exists here as to whether the Israel crew will be returned to the “Bat Galim” or it a crew made up of other nationalities will be put aboard. The Egyptian intention is that the ship make its way back to Israel, not through the short Suez waterway, but instead through the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, and through the Atlantic to Gibraltar where it could enter the Mediterranean. It is believed that Israel would object to this, maintaining as before that Israel ships have a right, in accord with a United Nations resolutions and international agreements, to use the Suez Canal.