TEL AVIV (Jan. 27)
Four Israeli war prisoners were returned to Israel today after Israeli authorities had turned over some 2,500 Egyptian prisoners of war to the United Nations Emergency Force. The exchange took place near the Gaza Strip town of Raffah where relatives and friends of the four Israelis, one of whom had been captured as long ago as September, 1955, gathered to greet the returnees.
The four men told similar stories of torture and mistreatment at the hands of their captors. Lt. Jonathan Etkes, the pilot who was captured when his jet fighter crashed during the Sinai campaign, seems to have been the particular recipient of venomous hatred and mistreatment.
Awakened from unconsciousness, into which he had slipped when his plane crashed, by bayonet jabbing Egyptian soldiers determining by this means whether he was still living, Lt. Etkes was “interrogated” by being kicked in his wounded leg, knocked to the floor and then methodically kicked for hours. In between, he was burned with live cigarette butts about the lips and in the armpits. One eye was still noticeably bruised today where he had been hit by a jailor.
The prisoners will receive home leave and then will be assigned to their former units. Arieh Annikster, 23-year-old soldier, was captured near the Gaza Strip in September, 1955. The other two, Alexander Rosenberg, 23, and Shimon Cohenna, 21, both border policemen, were captured near Nitzana in October, 1955. In addition to stories of brutal beatings, the prisoners revealed that they were kept on a near starvation diet and only given decent bedding and clean quarters or the very rare occasions when they were visited by Red Cross or UN representatives.