TEL AVIV (Apr. 24)
Details of the escape of three Syrian prisoners-of-war from an Israeli POW camp on April 16 and the massive manhunt that managed to net only one of them, were disclosed here today. Security officials admitted that the two escapees reached Syria yesterday although they may have been wounded by gunfire when Israeli soldiers spotted them crossing the Jordan River last week.
All three were sergeants and at least one of the escapees was an intelligence agent who had been gathering information from a Druze notable in the Golan Heights who has since been arrested on espionage charges. They effected their escape by digging a nine-foot tunnel from a prison camp lavatory to a point outside the camp’s perimeter fence. The digging took them seven hours, security sources said. Once outside the camp, one of the escapees made for Tel Aviv where he was captured the next day at the central bus terminal. The other two pressed eastward toward the Jordan River.
Immediately after the escape was detected, security forces set up roadblocks and mobile patrols sealed off routes leading to the borders while a dragnet combed the countryside around the camp. The two POWs heading for the Jordan River were apparently on Israeli territory for four days but managed to evade capture. They reportedly rested two days in Jordan before returning to Syria.
The escape sparked last week’s riot of Egyptian POWs in the same camp. The Egyptians attacked Israeli MPs when the latter attempted to search their barracks for digging tools and one Egyptian was killed in the melee.