Israel returns Hizb Allah corpses

Israel has repatriated the bodies of two Hizb Allah resistance fighters as part of German-mediated negotiations for a prisoner exchange.

    Prisoner swap talks picked up momentum recently

    Hizb Allah Secretary General, Sayyid Hassan Nasr Allah, on Monday expressed hope for further results.

    “The possible repatriation of some bodies of martyrs comes within the activation of ongoing negotiations through the German mediator," said Nasr Allah in a statement.

    “We hope (the negotiations) will continue and achieve requested results,” he said.

    The resistance group, which ousted Israeli occupation forces from south Lebanon in May 2000, following a 22-year occupation, is demanding Israel should release at least 19 Lebanese detainees it holds.

    Many are being held without trial or charge and have accused their captors of physically and sexually abusing them.

    The bodies of Ammar Hussein Hammud and Ghassan Za’aitr  will be handed over at 4:00pm (13:00 GMT) to Hizb Allah in the southern border city of Naqoura through the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the resistance group in a statement.

    Hammud was 20 years old when he carried out a resistance attack against an Israeli patrol in the then-occupied south, killing himself, on 30 December 1999.

    It was one of the group’s last resistance attacks ahead of Israel’s withdrawal in May.

    Za’aitr was killed in clashes with occupation troops in November 1998 in the occupied zone.



    The mother and sisters of fighter
    weep over his coffin

    “This measure is designed to establish a climate of confidence in order to make progress towards the eventual exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hizb Allah,” said an Israeli source on condition of anonymity.

    Israel is demanding Hizb Allah should release three soldiers and a Mossad agent it is holding, according to our correspondents in Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories.

    Hizb Allah holds three Israeli soldiers it captured from the occupied Shiba’a Farms in October 2000. The group also holds reserve officer Elhanan Tenenbaum whom Hizb Allah says is a Mossad agent lured to Beirut.

    Nasr Allah had warned Israel earlier this month the group would capture more Israeli occupation soldiers if there was not progress in prisoner swap talks. The resistance leader had also been indicating that talks had resumed this month.

    Israeli officials contacted the ICRC in Lebanon only this morning, said Antoine Bieler, the head of the international organisation in Lebanon.

    “We were quite surprised,” said a frenzied Bieler, on his way to the southern town where the repatriation was to take place. “We have been waiting for this since Israel withdrew from Lebanon a few years ago so it’s good things are moving along.”

    The international humanitarian organisation is not part of ongoing negotiations between Hizb Allah and Israel, he said.

    Among Israel's most prominent detainees are Sheikh Abd al-Karim Ubeid and Mustafa Dirani, two Hizb Allah leaders kidnapped in 1989 and 1994 respectively. The resistance group hopes they will be freed in the latest talks.

    Dirani and Ubeid were snatched to be used as bargaining chips in a swap for Israeli navigator Rod Arad whose jet was shot down over south Lebanon in 1986.

    Arad's whereabouts remains unknown.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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