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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Did Israel plan to kidnap Hezbullah representatives?

Yesterday, I reported that France was going to allow representatives of Hezbullah to attend a conference of representatives of the warring Lebanese factions outside of Paris. Today, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyassah (link to Arabic home page only) reports that French intelligence is worried about a report that Israel plans to kidnap Hezbullah representatives and hold them hostage in exchange for its kidnapped soldiers (the report actually says 'kidnap or assassinate' but I don't see what would be gained by an assassination of these lower level officials so I'm discounting that):
The report stated that French intelligence was alerted to the plan by sources in Israel, as well as sources in Arab countries, including Jordan. According to the intelligence, Israel intended to use the captured Hizbullah representatives as bargaining chips in securing the release of IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who were kidnapped by the guerilla organization one year ago.

Hizbullah officials to be targeted by the Mossad included former minister in the Lebanese government Mahmoud Panish, and Najaf al-Mosawi, who represents Hizbullah internationally, the Kuwaiti paper reported.
Apparently, French President Nicolas Sarcozy contacted the Olmert-Barak-Livni government and said that it would damage Israel's relations with France if Israel actually grabbed the Sheikhs.

I have a few comments about this story. First, Olmert is too wimpy to ever approve this sort of operation. His leftist wife would make him sleep in his office if he ever did something like this!

Second, more seriously, Israel has tried this before. In 1989, Israel kidnapped Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid from the Lebanese village of Jibshit hoping to trade him for captured Israeli airman Ron Arad (who is still missing). In 1994, Israel captured Sheikh Mustafa Dirani, who was the Lebanese Amal militia's head of security and tried to trade him for Arad too. In the end, it was unsuccessful. In January 2004, Israel traded Dirani, Obeid and some 400 'Palestinian' terrorists for drug dealing philanderer Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped and murdered by Hezbullah.

In 1989, Martin Kramer wrote about Obeid in the New York Times:
Sheikh Obeid was not among Hizbullah's leading strategists, or one of its smooth and dissimulating ideologues. He personified the zealous local cleric, passionately preaching war and sharing his meals, his home and his guidance with the young militiamen of Hizbullah.
That makes it unsurprising that Hezbullah would not trade Arad for Obeid.

Dirani was a member of Amal and its "head of security".
In 1987 he started contacts with Pro-Iran sources, and eventually a rift was created between him and the rest of the leadership of Amal. He was expelled from Amal and he established his own organization, the Believing Resistance.

Captured by Israeli commandos in 1994, he was held in administrative detention as a bargaining chip in exchange for Israeli servicemen held by Hezbollah. At the time, Israeli forces were in control of the southern Lebanon security buffer, in order to prevent the region from being used as a launching ground on attacks on Israel's Galilee region.

Mustafa Dirani was taken from his home in Lebanon by Israeli commandos. The day was the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Adha. Israel believed that Dirani had exclusive knowledge to the whereabouts of Israel Air Force pilot Ron Arad, who was captured by Dirani's men in 1986, and has been unheard of since then. During his interrogation by military officers, Dirani reportedly disclosed that Arad had been turned over first to a Hezbollah militia unit and then to Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who were in Lebanon at the time aiding Hezbollah guerrillas. But neither Iran nor any guerrilla group has ever offered any useful information about his fate. Allegedly, Dirani received $300,000 for transferring Ron Arad to the Iranians.
Again, not surprising that Hezbullah would not trade Arad for him.

Who are Panish and al-Mosawi? A Google search I did found only one hit for each when I put it in quotes - each hit related to today's meeting (al-Mosawi's was an Iranian site).

While I'm always pleased to see Israel going after Hezbullah terrorists, in this case, I doubt that kidnapping them would get Goldwasser and Regev released.

Bottom line: I don't believe the story.


At 7:49 AM, Blogger Yishai said...

I also don't believe the story. Maybe it was 'leaked' by Israel just to make the Hizballah guys sweat in France. The ratios just don't work. The Arabs don't care about a few guys. They want hundreds if not thousands of terrorists to be released for the few Israeli soldiers...

At 8:28 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


They would care if it was someone the caliber of Nasrallah without whom Hezbullah could not function. These guys aren't that caliber.


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