TEL AVIV (Jan. 14)
The first group of Egyptian prisoners of war to be released as a result of an agreement reached between the Israeli and Egyptian governments, through the mediation of the International Red Cross, were turned over to Egyptian authorities on the East bank of the Suez Canal, near Kantara on Friday. The number of POWs involved was not disclosed, Red Cross representatives supervised the operation.
Israel still holds some 4,500 POWs taken during last June’s Six-Day War. Egypt holds between 10 and 15 Israeli prisoners, mainly fliers and Marines. It was hoped that the exchange of prisoners would be completed by Wednesday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, an all-Swiss group, announced in Geneva that Israel and Egypt had both indicated their readiness to begin a prisoner exchange after “several months” of negotiations by the committee. The Israelis, however, are believed to have spurred Egyptian agreement by their release of 500 Egyptian soldiers and two high ranking officers on January 1, and 120 others last Tuesday. According to observers here, the action was intended to put pressure on the Egyptian Government to reach an agreement for the release of all POWs.