Israeli Pows a Major Cease-fire Issue

An army officer disclosed tonight that Israel has submitted the names of 450 of its soldiers presumed to be prisoners of war to the International Red Cross for transmission to Egypt and Syria but that neither country has acknowledged the list so far. The announcement by Gen. (Res.) Shmuel Eyal who deals with POW cases, was the first to mention a specific number of Israeli POWs. Eyal said that 350 of the men are presumed to be in Egyptian hands and 100 in Syria. In addition, Egypt holds ten Israeli POWs, mostly downed pilots, who were captured before the Aug. 1970 cease – fire, one of them in captivity since Dec. 1969.

The Israeli decision to permit the convoys for the Egyptian Third Army followed a “special and urgent appeal” from the U.S., the Cabinet announced yesterday. The Jerusalem Post reported today that the appeal from Washington was made Friday night. The paper said Israel had been willing to allow the Third Army to surrender and withdraw safely to the west bank of the canal but “President Nixon was extremely reluctant to have a confrontation with the Soviets on this issue and therefore urged Israel to accede to his request that the Third Army and (Egyptian President Anwar) Sadat’s prestige be preserved and it not be forced to surrender.” The Knesset will meet in special session tomorrow to discuss the continued failure of Egypt and Syria to comply with the Geneva Convention concerning the exchange of prisoners of war. The session was called at the behest of the Likud opposition faction which has sharply criticized the government’s agreement to allow food and drug convoys to reach the encircled Third Army before Egypt has responded to a POW exchange.

Eyal said that Israel now holds more than 7000 POWs, most of them Egyptians and that the names and ranks of nearly 4000 of them have already been provided to the Red Cross. He said Israel submits POW lists to the Red Cross, twice daily and that it permitted Red Cross representatives to visit wounded POWs in Israeli hospitals on Oct. 11 and 13, and that on Oct. 19 the Red Cross was permitted to visit a POW camp and spent four hours talking to hundreds of prisoners. In contrast, neither Syria nor Egypt has permitted the Red Cross to visit Israeli POWs, not even the wounded. Syria has not submitted any POW lists and Egypt submitted only 48 names of which only 40 were identifiable.

Eyal said that Israel has fully observed the provisions of the Geneva Convention relating to POWs and is prepared for a total POW exchange or at least an exchange of wounded prisoners. The Geneva Convention requires combatants to announce the names of POWs, permit visits by Red. Cross representatives and exchange wounded prisoners. In addition to the Egyptians, Israel holds 354 Syrian POWs, 17 Iraqis and five Moroccans. It was learned that the Egyptian prisoners include 350 officers, 30 of the rank of Lt. Col. and 10 full Colonels. It was also learned that some 40 Israeli POWs have been identified from tv films and photographs published in Arab and international newspapers and tv broadcasts.

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