The exchange of prisoners of war, agreed between Egypt and Israel on Wednesday (14th November), began on Thursday (15th November).
The exchange of prisoners of war, agreed between Egypt and Israel on Wednesday (14th November), began on Thursday (15th November). A Red Cross plane, carrying 26 wounded Israeli prisoners touched down at Lydda Airport in Tel Aviv at the start of an operation which could take from six to eight days to complete. At the same time, Israel sent home the first planeload of 44 wounded Egyptian soldiers, and implemented its undertaking to hand over to the United Nations Emergency Force, two check-points on the Cairo-suez Highway. Later in the day, 40 wounded, and 200 other Egyptian prisoners boarded another Red Cross plane for Cairo.
The Egyptians have said they are handing back 245 prisoners. Israel claims to be holding about 8,000 Egyptians captive. Included in the prisoners going home to Israel will be nine soldiers captured during the 1967 war. The 44 men aboard the first DC-9 to land in Cairo included 32 stretcher cases.
Israeli prisoners arriving at Lydda Airport were greeted with cheers from a small crowd. Each man was handed a bouquet of flowers as he stepped off the plane. The Israeli Defence Minister, Moshe Dayan, also welcomed the returning prisoners. He disclosed that Israel had already agreed to a suggestion for the repatriation of 15,000 Syrian villagers to their homes in areas captured by Israel last month, as part of a prisoner deal with Syria. He said an exchange with the Syrians was Israel's next objective.
The exchange is being made on proportional basis. It was agreed on wednesday between Egyptian and Israeli officers at Checkpoint 101 along the Cairo-Suez road. Their meeting was held under the Chairmanship of the Commander of the U.N. Forces, general Ensio Sillasvuo. The two sides agreed to implement the last four points of the six-point agreement, sponsored by the United State,s which was signed on Sunday (11th November). The four clauses called for daily supplies of food and water to Suez City and the evacuation of its wounded, and freedom of movement for non-military supplies to the East Bank of the Suez Canal. The clauses also specified the replacement of the Israeli checkpoints on the Cairo-Suez road by U.N. checkpoints and the exchange of the P.O.Ws.