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‘post’ Says Spain Has Helped to Free Several Hundred Jews Held by Egyptians

Since the Six-Day War, secret negotiations conducted by Spain have resulted in freeing several hundred Jewish families from Egypt, the Washington Post said Wednesday. “Possibly 500 families–Egyptian citizens as well as aliens–have been helped out of Egypt and have been dispersed” to Western countries. “Many stateless Jews,” the Post said, “have been given Spanish passports.” It said the International Red Cross and United States Jewish organizations have aided the effort.

“Some estimates are that 1,000 Egyptian Jews, most of them permitted to take only their personal belongings, have been helped to resettle abroad,” the newspaper reported. The Post noted, however, that “an estimated 250 Jews remain in confinement, principally in the Al-Thawra prison near Cairo. Other Jews freed previously have alleged that they were forced by prison officers to submit to sexual perversion and other indignities and were beaten and tortured.” Last December the exodus was reduced to a trickle, and since July, the Post said, the Jewish exodus has apparently stopped. The Post reported that “a few Jews also have been able to get out of Iraq, but usually only upon forfeiture of their goods and payment of ransom. Syria has refused to grant exit permits.”

France reportedly has been active also on their behalf. Credited with the largest role in arranging the release of many of the Jews is the Spanish Ambassador in Cairo, Angel Sagaz. Mr. Sagaz, the Post noted, “played an important role in getting Jews out of Nazi Germany during World War II.” The Post quoted one Jew rescued from an Egyptian prison as saying that Ambassador Sagaz “went back as far as the inquisition in order to construe for the Sephardic Jews a Spanish origin and give them a passport.” According to the newspaper, “Egyptian authorities arrested an estimated 500 Egyptian Jews, chiefly in Cairo and Alexandria,” when the Six-Day War broke out. “Most of them are heads of families and some have remained in prison continually since then.” According to the figures available to the Post, “before the 1967 war, there were approximately 2,500 Jews in Egypt. About 1,500 were in Cairo and 1,000 in Alexandria. Until the earlier 1956 war, the Jewish community in Egypt numbered 75,000-80,000. About 3,500 Jews are thought to remain in Syria, where there were 40,000 in the 1940s. No accurate figures are available for Iraq. But about 120,000 Jews fled from Iraq to Israel in 1948.”

At the United Nations, Israel has insisted that an investigation of the situation of Jews in Arab countries be linked with any inquiry into conditions of Arab inhabitants in Israeli-occupied territories, as asked by Arab Governments. U Thant has accused Israel of frustrating the latter investigation.

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