Missing their families and professing boredom with their months of captivity at the hands of the Palestine Liberation Organization, six young Israeli soldiers said today that they had no complaints about their treatment.
"We live in a regular house, we get good food," said Radi Hazan, 20, of Tel Aviv, in an interview arranged by the PLO with four American correspondents. "Everything is okay; we just miss our families."
Abu Ziad, a senior Palestinian commander, said the prisoners were being shown to prove how much more "humane" and "civilized" PLO treatment of its captives was than that of Israel, which is holding an estimated 6,000 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in a tent prison in the southern Lebanese town of Ansar.
"We don't feel as if we are prisoners," said Dani Azriel Gilboa, 20. "We live like a family in a home."
The six prisoners are being held by Fatah, the organization of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. The only two other Israeli prisoners, not presented to the journalists, are reportedly in the hands of the more radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine/General Command.
Hazan said the group was surprised and captured without a shot being fired on Sept. 4 east of Beirut. The group had been taken only 20 yards or so, he said, when his friend Eli Abutbal, 19, of Acca, was shot. Hazan said the guerrilla who fired the shot "said it was a mistake."
The eight prisoners were marched through the mountains for four hours after one of the Israelis, a medic, treated the shoulder wound. Abutbal and the medic were taken to a hospital but they later rejoined the others here in the Bekaa.
The six prisoners, looking fit in identical blue sweaters and gray work pants, were presented to the journalists in a stone house set in an orchard where they also were to be interviewed by two members of the International Red Cross.
According to the prisoners, it was their second meeting with the Red Cross. They said that during their captivity they had received three letters from their families in Israel and had been able to reply.
Ziad of the PLO interrupted to state, through an interpreter, that PLO prisoners at Ansar had received no such treatment and that efforts by distraught families to communicate with prisoners repeatedly had been rejected by the Israelis. He said they had provided the names of only some 4,000 of the 6,000 captives at Ansar.
The Israeli prisoners spoke of a daily life of general monotony: getting up, "not early," according to one prisoner, eating breakfast, playing cards or chess, talking among themselves and their guards, exercising outdoors when the sun was out, eating again and watching television at night.
The prisoners, who seemed relaxed, were divided over what their experience had taught them. Some said their views would be unchanged. Others said they now felt that somehow a way must be found for Palestinians and Israelis to live together in peace.
"Now that we have seen the other side," said Gilboa, "we know more about it. We see that the Palestinian problem must be solved."
Sgt. Ruben Cohen, the ranking captive, suggested there ought to be a way for Palestinians and Israelis to coexist in a state that would embody the whole of ancient Palestine. Hazan disagreed. "The issue is really how we divide up the land," he said.
Ziad, at the end of the interview, said that the PLO was holding the Israelis until an exchange could be arranged. He would not discuss whether the PLO would accept a one-for-one exchange of prisoners. "The issue must be decided through the Red Cross," he said.