Thursday, July 17, 2008

Israel Paid `Heavy Price' Over Hezbollah Prisoners, Olmert Says

Israel paid a ``heavy price'' in its agreement with Hezbollah to release five Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.
Samir Kuntar, who was convicted of killing a girl and her father in 1979, and four inmates, returned to a welcome rally in Beirut yesterday after Hezbollah handed over the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser to the Red Cross.
``We decided to bring our boys home even at the heavy price of releasing a reprehensible murderer,'' Olmert said in an e- mailed statement late yesterday. ``Concern for the fate of every one of our soldiers is the glue that joins us together as a society and enables us to survive surrounded by enemies and terrorist organizations.''
The capture of the soldiers sparked a 33-day war between Israel and Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militia that resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 Lebanese and 159 Israelis. Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told the rally in Beirut yesterday that ``the time of victory has arrived,'' Agence France-Presse reported.
The bodies of the two soldiers were presented in black coffins by Hezbollah representatives to the International Red Cross in the Lebanese border town of Naqura yesterday. They were taken to the Israeli side and positively identified before the Lebanese prisoners were sent across the border.
Position of Strength
Hezbollah didn't say before the exchange that the soldiers were dead. The group achieved a position of strength in negotiating the swap with Israel by not revealing the fate of the soldiers, AFP cited Nasrallah as saying when he addressed the crowd in Beirut.
``Had their fates been revealed in a tactical error, the negotiations would have taken a different course,'' he said.
Regev and Goldwasser were captured in a cross-border raid by Hezbollah. It isn't known whether they died immediately or after they were taken captive.
The swap agreement included Kuntar, who was convicted of killing a four-year-old girl, her father and two police officers. Kuntar was 16 when he landed on the Israeli coast from Lebanon in a boat with three fellow members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and broke into the apartment of Danny Haran in the town of Nahariya.
Court Testimony
According to court testimony, Kuntar killed Haran in front of his four-year-old daughter and then crushed the girl's skull with the butt of a rifle. Kuntar said Israeli soldiers were responsible for at least one of the deaths. Haran's wife, Smadar, was hiding in the apartment and accidentally smothered her two-year-old daughter as she tried to stop her crying.
The exchange agreement demonstrates the ``moral and ethical strength of the Israeli people,'' Olmert said in his statement. ``Happy is the people that has these values. Woe to the people that now celebrates the release of a human animal that smashed the skull of a four-year-old girl.''
Israel also agreed to hand over the bodies of 199 ``enemy combatants.'' It sent the first group of 12 across the border shortly after the Israeli soldiers were returned.
Hezbollah, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., has been linked to scores of attacks since its 1982 founding, including rocket strikes on Israel, the 1983 Beirut bombings that killed 241 U.S. and 58 French servicemen, and the 1994 killings of 85 people at a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
While Israel's Cabinet approved the exchange two days ago, it rejected a report from Hezbollah on the fate of missing airman Ron Arad, according to a statement on the prime minister's Web site. Israel will continue to seek information on Arad, who disappeared in Lebanon in 1986, Olmert's office said.
Israel is negotiating with the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit, a soldier captured outside the Gaza Strip three weeks before the abduction at the Lebanese border. Shalit is believed to be alive.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Track with co.mments

Seesmic Updates

(Loading ...)
Add to Mixx!

Stumble Upon Toolbar I'm on pownce
    follow me on Twitter
    Locations of visitors to this page
    eXTReMe Tracker

    Find the best blogs at

    Visit to discover Indian blogs BlogFlux Tools Blog directory Progressive Bloggers Blog Search blog directory
    My LIVE Mobile Update(when powered by Matrix SIM) Free Meta Tag Generator

    Plaxo Badge

    Don't copy

    Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape Note: Copyright © 2000-2008 S.Chatterjee. All Rights Reserved. | Copyright © 2000-2008 Whatanews4u. All Rights Reserved.
    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.