JERUSALEM (Jul. 4)
A Foreign Ministry spokesman has denied an American newspaper report that a prisoner-of-war exchange with Egypt was aborted last month because Israeli POWs returned from Syria revealed that they had been tortured. The spokesman was referring to a dispatch in the Baltimore Sun whose Middle East correspondent said the Red Cross privately informed foreign diplomats in Jerusalem that Israel prejudiced its chances for a prisoner exchange with Egypt.
According to the Sun story, the exchange was to have taken place June 8. Egypt is holding ten Israeli POWs and Israel has 56 Egyptian prisoners. Israel says there was no exchange agreement with Cairo.
The Foreign Office spokesman denied that Israel had given Syria an undertaking not to publicize the torture story and then reneged. He said there was no such undertaking and that the Israeli pilots who told of being tortured after their exchange for high ranking Syrian and Lebanese officers had not been instructed to keep mum.
The spokesman refused to discuss the Sun’s report “that Defense Minister Moshe Dayan over-ruled instructions to the returned POWs by Foreign Minister Abba Eban not to say anything about torture. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned from unofficial sources, however, that Foreign Ministry officials wanted Israel to follow the American example of saying nothing about torture until all Israeli POWs in Arab hands are released. They noted that U.S. POWs exchanged earlier this year said nothing until all Americans held by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were safely home.
Health Minister Victor Shonitov told the Knesset today that his ministry was undertaking an intensive campaign to fight venereal disease which he said is especially high among the young population. According to Sheemtov, the Incidence of gonorrhea Is 150 cases per 100;000 persons and syphilis 14 cases per 100,000.