JERUSALEM (Jan. 27)
The six crew members of the Israeli fishing vessel Doron, which was seized on the high seas by Egyptian gun boats last September, were released by Egypt today. Israel promptly turned over to Egypt six Arab fishermen from the Gaza Strip whose boat was seized last December off the Askelon coast.
The technicalities of the release of the five Israelis and their Italian skipper, were negotiated by the headquarters staff of the United Nations Emergency Force at Gaza. Although the Israelis never publicly stated they were holding the six Arabs, they had informed UNEF. Israeli officials stated today that the Egyptians had not linked their release of the Israeli fishermen to the freeing of the Gaza inhabitants. The exchange of prisoners took place at a UNEF checkpost near the Gaza Strip border.
Israel attacked the seizure of the vessel–which the Egyptians have not yet released and which Jerusalem demands unconditionally–as an act of “piracy” and threatened to appeal to the Security Council. UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold persuaded Jerusalem to let him make a personal appeal to Cairo. Several such appeals, one in person to Egyptian President Nasser, were made and only after repeated Israeli prodding was Mr. Hammarskjold able to win Egyptian agreement to the release of the six fishermen.
The Israeli crewmen and the Italian captain met today with the press and recited a tale of torture, terror and beating for nearly six weeks after their capture while their Egyptian captors tried to get them to confess, firstly, that they were inside Egyptian territorial waters and, secondly, that they had been spying when apprehended after midnight of September 22.
The first visit by a representative of the International Red Cross, the men said, marked a change in the treatment they received. The beatings ended, they were placed together in one large cell instead of separately in dark dungeon-like rooms. The Captain said that he attempted to produce his depth sounder records and his charts to prove to the Egyptians that he was on the high seas, but they would have none of his take, insisting he was inside Egyptian waters.
Israel is likely to make a sharp protest to the Red Cross over the treatment the men received. It will also press its demands for the 73-ton Doron, which is equipped with modern electronic devices for locating schools of fish. It was considered highly unlikely that the Egyptians would bargain for the simultaneous release of the six-ton Arab fishing smack in which the six Gaza fishermen were apprehended.