TEL AVIV (Apr. 8)
Israeli sources reported today that Egyptian officials are using Israel’s intense desire to recover bodies of Israeli soldiers missing in action in the Yom Kippur War to force return by Israel of Egyptian terrorists.
Israel was disclosed to have returned to the Egyptians 92 imprisoned terrorists, though not terrorists convicted on murder charges, and 50 of their relatives, in exchange for Egyptian promises to return the bodies of Israeli war dead. This number does not include 20 terrorists Israel had agreed to free when the bodies of the Israeli soldiers were returned to Israel.
During the negotiations leading to the first Egyptian-Israeli disengagement accord, the Egyptians promised they would assist in return of the bodies of missing Israeli soldiers and Maj, Gen, Mouhamed Gemassi, the chief Egyptian military disengagement negotiator, stated that Egypt would not use the Israeli bodies for trading purposes.
EGYPTIAN PRESSURE OUTLINED
But, the Israeli sources reported, Egyptian behavior soon evoked concern about their real intentions. Ten Israeli dead were buried by their comrades at an Israeli position on the Barlev Line before the Egyptians, in their initial thrust across the Suez Canal, took the position. When Israeli burial society officials reached the position, they were unable to find the bodies.
The same incident occurred at the jetty position, near the canal’s southern outlet, where Israeli soldiers buried five of their comrades before the Egyptians occupied the position. The bodies could not be found when Israeli search parties went to the spot after the accord was signed. It turned out that the Egyptians found and removed the bodies for use as a pressure at a later stage. Since then, the Egyptians have placed difficulties in the way of the Israeli search parties and then barred the parties.
By then, the Egyptians prepared a list of 298 imprisoned terrorists and demanded their release in exchange for the bodies of the Israeli soldiers. Israel replied that the list included men who had already been released, some unknown to Israeli authorities and some who were sentenced for serious criminal offenses and whom they would not release, Egypt then reduced the list to 189 terrorists.
Israel then proposed to return to Egypt the bodies of Egyptian soldiers found in areas held by Israel, but the Egyptian reply was “We don’t need them. Cover them with sand, and that’s” that,” Egypt then agreed to receive 92 imprisoned terrorists and it was only then that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat announced the existence of 39 bodies of Israeli dead.
But the return of those bodies last weekend was made conditional by Egypt on the release of 20 more terrorists, establishment of a Red Crescent branch at El Arish and other demands Israel accepted all the conditions. For Israel, the bodies of its dead and their return to Israel is more sacred than any other conditions and the Egyptians know of that attitude and capitalize on it, the Israeli sources said.