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Hezbollah Returns Bodies to Israel in Exchange for 5 Lebanese Militants

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

NAQOURA, Lebanon — Five Lebanese militants freed from prisons in Israel in exchange for the bodies of two captured Israeli soldiers strode down a red carpet behind a Hezbollah honor guard Wednesday to a boisterous welcome from hundreds of cheering spectators.

Israel released Samir Kantar and four others after Hezbollah handed over two black coffins with the bodies of the Israeli soldiers, closing a painful chapter from the 2006 war in Lebanon.

Kantar, who had been serving multiple life terms in Israel for a grisly 1979 attack, wiped away tears as he stood before hundreds in the coastal border town of Naqoura in southern Lebanon. An honor guard escorted the men to a stage as a brass band played martial music and rows of uniformed fighters saluted.

"We knew that you were waiting for the resistance and it reached you. You came back free and heroes," said Ibrahim Amin al-Sayed, head of Hezbollah's political bureau.

The five later flew to Beirut, where they received an official welcome from the president and his government.

Winning freedom for Kantar was one of the reasons Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah cited at the time for going to war with Israel in 2006.

Kantar was convicted in a nighttime attack that killed a 4-year-old girl, her father and a policeman. Although polls showed Israelis solidly endorsed the exchange, many see Kantar as the embodiment of evil.

"Samir Kantar is a brutal murderer of children and anybody celebrating him as a hero is trampling on basic human decency," said Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister.

Wednesday's exchange was also a wrenching end to the war for Israel. The soldiers' capture by Hezbollah fighters in a cross-border raid in 2006 triggered the 34-day war. The campaign to bring Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev home had become a national crusade.

The soldiers' Hezbollah captors had withheld any information about them since they were taken, refusing to release pictures or allow the Red Cross to see them. It was not clear if Regev and Goldwasser were killed in the original raid or if they died in captivity. Evidence at the scene indicated both were seriously wounded.

Though officials had suspected they were dead, the sight of the coffins was the first confirmation of their fate.

Regev's father, Zvi, said he fell apart the moment he saw Hezbollah take the coffins out of a van and place them on the ground.

"It was horrible to see it. I didn't want to, I asked them to turn off the TV," he said, choking back tears.

"We were always hoping that Udi and Eldad were alive and that they would come home and we would hug them," he added, using Ehud Goldwasser's nickname. "We had this hope all the time."

An aunt of Regev's sank to the ground when she saw the coffins appear on a small TV hooked up outside the soldier's father's house. Some 50 friends, neighbors and family who had gathered there sobbed, rocked back and forth in prayer, lit candles or tugged at their hair. "Nasrallah, you will pay," several of the mourners vowed.

Other people in the crowd criticized Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saying the soldiers died for nothing.

The swap was mediated by a U.N.-appointed German official who shuttled between the sides for 18 months.

On Wednesday, Israeli forensic experts examined the remains for several hours, checking dental records among other things, before confirming the soldiers' identities. Israeli generals then went to the families' homes to deliver the news.

After the confirmation, Israel released Kantar and the four other Lebanese prisoners to Hezbollah.

In the dead of night on April 22, 1979, Kantar and three other gunmen made their way in a rubber dinghy from Lebanon to the sleepy Israeli coastal town of Nahariya, 5 miles south of the Lebanese border.

There, in a hail of gunfire and exploding grenades, they killed a policeman who stumbled upon them, then burst into the apartment of Danny Haran, herding him and his 4-year-old daughter outside at gunpoint to the beach below, where they were killed.

An Israeli court found that Kantar shot Danny Haran in front of his child, then smashed her head with his rifle butt.

Haran's wife, Smadar, who had fled into a crawl space in the family apartment with her 2-year-old daughter, accidentally smothered the child with her hand while trying to stifle her cries.

Kantar, a Lebanese Druse who acted on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Front, a small faction of the PLO, denies killing the older child. He says she was killed in the crossfire as he battled Israeli police, and he has never expressed remorse. Kantar was 16 years old at the time.

Two members of his squad were killed in the raid, and the third, taken alive, was released in a 1985 prisoner swap.

Israel held on to Kantar for decades, hoping to use him as a bargaining chip to win new information about an Israeli airman whose plane crashed in Lebanon in 1986.

But despite dissatisfaction over Hezbollah's report on the airman, provided over the weekend, and under pressure from the captured soldiers' families to bring them home, Israel's Cabinet voted on Tuesday to release Kantar.

On Tuesday, Hezbollah's commander in south Lebanon, Sheik Nabil Kaouk, called the swap an "official admission of defeat" for Israel.

An official ceremony was planned at Beirut Airport and was to be attended by Lebanon's president, prime minister and parliament speaker. Later, Nasrallah was to address what is expected to be a huge celebration at Hezbollah's stronghold south of Beirut.

Also Wednesday, a Red Cross tractor-trailer arrived in Lebanon carrying wooden coffins containing the bodies of Lebanese and Palestinian fighters. Part of the swap included Israel handing over the remains of some 199 fighters.

In addition to the two soldiers, Hezbollah also handed to ICRC officials body parts belonging to Israeli soldiers killed during the 2006 war.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,383441,00.html
 

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Samir Kantar killed a 4 year old, and Israel trades him away for 2 dead bodies. I'm sorry - but what's going on here?!?!
 

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Really, what ever happened to "we don't deal with terrorists" or that is only the palestinian ones?... they should have traded the 2 soldier's bodies for the 5 militant's dead bodies.
 

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Israeli Critics Question Lopsided Prisoner Swap With Hezbollah


Thursday, July 17, 2008

NAQOURA, Lebanon — Critics of Israel's lopsided prisoner exchange with Lebanese guerrillas said Wednesday that such deals only encourage more hostage-taking — a fear underscored by Gaza militants who said the swap proves that kidnapping is the only language Israel understands.

The deal, in which a notorious Lebanese attacker, four other militants and the bodies of 199 Arab fighters were traded for two dead Israeli soldiers, closed a painful chapter from Israel's 2006 war in Lebanon.

But it also raised questions about whether Israel should reconsider its policy of bringing back every soldier from the battlefield at just about any cost.

Israel has been carrying out unequal prisoner swaps for decades, including handing over 4,600 Palestinian and Lebanese captives in 1983 in exchange for six captured Israeli soldiers. In the past it's even traded live prisoners for bodies, as it did Wednesday.

The rationale for such trades was a wartime ethic seen as essential in Israel's early days to instilling loyalty and commitment from its troops.

In today's world of asymmetric warfare — with militant groups increasingly focused on kidnapping as a way to pressure Israel and with the fight against terrorism now a worldwide challenge — the lopsided swaps could have graver consequences than in the past.

"What we've done now has made kidnapping soldiers the most profitable game in town," said Israeli security expert Martin Sherman.

"There is absolutely no reason why Hezbollah should not invest huge resources now, along with Hamas, in the next kidnapping."

The issue is of immediate concern because the government is deeply involved in indirect negotiations to free its other captive soldier, Gilad Schalit, held by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Unlike Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two soldiers whose bodies were returned Wednesday, Schalit is believed to be alive.

Following this week's Cabinet vote that cleared the way for the Hezbollah deal, Construction Minister Zeev Boim, one of only three ministers to vote against it, said he was afraid the swap would make it harder for Israel to win the release of Schalit.

"No one should be surprised if Hamas will now raise the price for freeing him," he said.

Hamas made it clear Wednesday that it intended to do just that.

"As there was an honorable exchange today, we are determined to have an honorable exchange for our own prisoners" held in Israeli jails, Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said. "Let them answer our demands." Israel holds about 10,000 Palestinians in prison.

Haniyeh's spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri went further, saying the swap "shows that the only successful way to free the prisoners is by kidnapping soldiers."

Explaining his opposition, Boim, the construction minister, said Wednesday: "We needed, in my opinion, to take this opportunity to change the rules we were dragged into many years ago, which have led to many lopsided deals."

But the Israeli military said the deal drove home the Jewish state's deep commitment to its soldiers.

"This painful process exemplifies Israel's moral commitment to secure the return of all of their soldiers sent out on operational missions," said a statement Wednesday from the Israeli Defense Forces. "It demonstrates a compelling moral strength which stems from Judaism, Israeli societal values and from the spirit of the IDF."

Wednesday's exchange involved freeing a Lebanese militant convicted of what many consider to be among the most gruesome crimes inflicted on Israelis in their history.

Samir Kantar was sentenced to three life terms for killing an Israeli man in front of his 4-year-old daughter, then killing the little girl by smashing her skull with his rifle butt.

During the grisly attack, the girl's 2-year-old sister was accidentally smothered by her mother during a desperate attempt to silence the child's cries as the two hid in a crawl space.

For Israelis, the 1979 attack was a nightmare scenario feared by many in a nation living in a constant state of war: a terrorist breaking into their home in the middle of the night and kidnapping and killing a family.

Because of the visceral reaction, successive governments held off on including Kantar in any previous swap. Kantar was 16 years old at the time of the attack and he has consistently denied killing the girl, saying she died in crossfire.

That Israel paid such a high price for dead bodies could provide an incentive for militants to kill future hostages, said Yuval Steinitz, a lawmaker from the opposition Likud Party.

"This is a very dangerous precedent," he said. "We are telling them that they don't have to do their utmost to keep captive soldiers alive, to save them if captured."

Nor was the high price of the swap lost on ordinary Palestinians.

"Nobody would have expected that Israel would give up the likes of Samir Kantar. Hezbollah has shown that they are mighty people, and Israel is afraid of them and had to meet their demands," said Samar Mohammed, a 23-year-old architect in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Despite the criticism in Israel, the swap could provide a badly needed boost for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose grip on power is gravely threatened by a burgeoning corruption probe.

Olmert launched a monthlong war against Hezbollah in June 2006 in response to the servicemen's capture. His handling of the war was widely criticized, and he has been under considerable pressure to resolve the issue of the soldiers' fate.

Wednesday's swap closed a painful chapter from the war, and Israelis reacted to confirmation of the young men's death with a mixture of anguish and anger.

One of the soldiers' aunts sank to the ground in despair, and other mourners demanded revenge, chanting "Nasrallah, you will pay" — referring to Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

Olmert recently announced the soldiers were believed dead, but there was no proof until their remains were delivered to Israel in two black coffins Wednesday. During the past two years, securing Regev's and Goldwasser's release had become a national crusade involving bumper stickers, billboards, radio and TV spots and public prayers.

Family and friends outside the homes of the fallen soldiers burst into tears at the first television images of the black coffins.

"It was horrible to see it. I didn't want to, I asked them to turn off the TV," said Regev's father, Zvi, choking back tears. "We were always hoping that Udi (Ehud) and Eldad were alive and that they would come home and we would hug them."

Gerald Steinberg, chairman of the political science department at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv, disagreed with the notion that Hezbollah came out ahead in both the war and the prisoner swap.

"Hezbollah paid a high price," he said. "After the soldiers were kidnapped, Israel went to war and inflicted a very high cost on Hezbollah. It would be irrational for Hezbollah to return to a similar tactic."

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,384501,00.html
 

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I'm sorry, but if I were an Israeli operative, I would have found a way to knock him out while he was in captivity and insert a tracking device inside his body while he was asleep. Either something that could be shoved down his throat and implanted in his intestinal track or embedded under the skin and then keep him under until the skin healed completely.
I would have found a way to do something to track this monster and if he ever came even close to Israel again, I'd have my best special ops track him down and kill him.
Shoot, just go one better and place an explosive charge in his nasal cavity and when he's on the podium making his anti-Israel hate speech, press the button and watch his head explode on TV! LOL!
Now, that would be justice! :twisted:
 

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Better yet, the tracking device could lead them to the "hive" for an air strike, maybe they could get a few more that way.
 
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