JERUSALEM (Nov. 24)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir said today the decision regarding the POW exchange had been a “very difficult one” because of the “very heavy price” Israel had to pay. In a TV interview, he said the “main consideration” had been the mortal danger that had hung over the six Al Fatah-held POWs in Tripoli because of the fighting there.
(The returning POWs themselves, in brief TV interviews, spoke of “very tough” conditions in Tripoli these past few days. One spoke of the constant shelling and another recalled a grave shortage of food, water and electricity.)
The danger, Shamir noted, “did not depend on the (POWs’)captors. It was an outside, objective reality. Therefore, we had to do more than the maximum” to bring them home, he continued. He expressed regret that the release of the six POWs did not include the release of two other prisoners held by the Ahmed Jabreel group, but pledged that the Israeli government would do its utmost to bring the other two back home — “and we will bring them back,” he declared firmly.
Shamir said he shared the happiness of the families of the returned six POWs and the ongoing concern of the families of the other two. But the two families should “draw encouragement” both from the release of the six and from the government’s evinced determination to maintain a “massive effort” to bring back the rest of the POWs, Shamir stated.
BEGIN PRESSES EFFORTS FOR POWS’ RELEASE
Former Premier Menachem Begin added his voice, in a radio interview, to the national rejoicing at the POWs’ return. He praised jurists Shmuel Tamir and Arye Merinsky and leftwing politician Arye Eliav for their efforts on the government’s behalf to obtain the POW exchange.
Begin, who spoke today publicly for the first time in many weeks, endorsed the government’s decision to receive the six POWs now, splitting them from the remaining two in the hands of Jabreel. Begin agreed that mortal danger had threatened the six. He said he would like to meet with the returned POWs. Later, in a telephone conversation with the father of one of the six the former Premier repeated his desire and the two men agreed to arrange such a meeting soon.