INDEPENDENT NEWS

Hezbollah: We Will Not Change Swap Conditions

Published: Tue 11 Nov 2003 10:59 PM
Hezbollah Insists It Will Not Change Prisoner Swap Conditions after "Israel" Excludes Qintar
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah commented on the Israeli statement on the prisoners swap saying first: "The conditions and demands of Hezbollah are acknowledged, clear and precise and we stick to them in all respects".
Sayyed Nasrallah added "We are waiting for the German intermediary to formally hand us the text of the Israeli decision before taking a definitive decision on the matter".
The head of the Israeli personnel negotiating the prisoners swap operation, Ilan Biran is expected to arrive soon in Berlin to inform the German mediator about the decision of the Israeli cabinet.
After an eight hour meeting, the Israeli cabinet agreed on the prisoners swap with Hezbollah under condition that it excludes prisoners it branded as having blood on their hands, without mentioning Lebanese detainee, Samir Qintar in name.
Israeli media expressed concern Monday the prisoners swap with Hezbollah would reach a dead end on the wake of the Israeli cabinet decision to exclude Qintar from the operation.
The possibility was even more highlighted following the orders Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon gave to Biran not to discuss releasing Qintar, according to Israeli daily Maariv. Maariv quoted Sharon as saying we will not accept Nasrallah’s demand and we will not get engaged in negotiations on Qintar. According to Maariv, Biran expected that Israeli cabinet decision to exclude Qintar will lead Hezbollah to reject the deal.
For his part, Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom Mofaz categorically ruled out the release of Qintar saying "Israel" has its red lines that cannot be crossed. In this framework, Israeli cabinet issued an official statement on its eight hour meeting on the prisoners swap. During the meeting, it was agreed that prisoners described as having blood on their hands will not be released. Qintar was not mentioned in name.
The first two items in the statement said that approximately 400 Palestinian prisoners and detained will be released from the West Bank and Gaza. The third item said several dozen prisoners from Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Sudan and Libya will be released to their respective countries, except for several of the Lebanese prisoners with 'blood on their hands'.
Fourth, the corpses of scores of Lebanese will be handed in as well as information on other missed persons. Fifth, information on the mine fields in southern, Lebanon handed to the United Nations upon the withdrawal from southern Lebanon, will be handed in. Sixth, General Ilan Biran charged by the prime minister will coordinate negotiations and follow up the operations according to the principles agreed upon by the cabinet. Seventh, the cabinet will exert every effort possible to restore airman Ron Arad.
In a parallel development Israeli media sought to make public a statement made by Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz during Sunday debate.
Mofaz suggested that Nasrallah be snatched and used as a bargaining chip to secure the return of Arad, whom Shalom accused Iran of kidnapping. This gains more weight taking into consideration a report published in Maariv saying that Sharon and Mofaz have agreed on more operations against Hezbollah to achieve this goal.
Contrary to the pretext given by Sharon's cabinet saying that it could not set-free prisoners who killed Israelis locally, the Israeli Radio - the seventh channel that belongs to Israeli settlers reported on its site on the internet that Israeli authorities had set free the friend of the Lebanese Prisoner Samir al Qintar, the Palestinian prisoner, Ahmad al Abrass - who was a member of the group that executed an operation against the settlement of Naharya back in the 1970s.
The seventh Channel said Abrass was arrested with Qintar and both were sentenced to 542 years in prison for the same charge - the killing of Israelis - that means that his hands have blood on them according to the Israeli cabinet description.
Al Abrass was released in 1985 in the framework of a prisoners swap operation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command under the leadership of Ahmad Jibril.
The brother of Qintar said in case the Israeli cabinet insisted on not setting free his brother Samir, his family suggests that the prisoners swap operation takes place under one condition that it excludes setting free the Israeli colonel El Hanan Tennebaum.

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