Surprise Expressed over Egyptian Announcement on Return of Bodies

Israeli circles expressed surprise and some skepticism over the announcement in Cairo yesterday that Egypt would return the bodies of 19 Israeli soldiers killed in the Yom Kippur War whose remains were discovered recently during excavation work to widen the Suez Canal. The announcement was referred to by President Carter at his Washington press conference yesterday as “an inclination . . . toward an alleviation of tension” in the Middle East.

Surprise stemmed from the fact that Israel has been making approaches to Egypt for the return of still missing soldiers but has never received a reply. News that the bodies were found reached here only a short time before it was made public in Cairo and Washington. Moreover, the Israelis say they have no idea when the Egyptians will return the remains and what “price” they may demand. Egypt last April returned the remains of seven soldiers and two Jews executed for espionage more than 20 years ago. In exchange, Israel released to Egypt a much larger number of Arab prisoners, including some serving sentences for terrorist acts.

Israel also says that it knows of only 14 Yom Kippur War dead still missing. The Egyptian figure of 19 may be the result of a mixing of remains, sources here said.

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