Prisoner swap with Israel boosts Hezbollah's domestic clout
www.chinaview.cn 2008-07-17 19:24:07   Print

    BEIRUT, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Lebanon's Hezbollah Wednesday successfully got back five Lebanese prisoners in a hostage swap with Israel that many believed was lopsided and would further boost the Shiite militant group's influence within Lebanon.

    Four imprisoned Hezbollah militants and a convicted Lebanese killer were handed over to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the Rosh Hanikra border crossing, who then transferred them to the Lebanese side.

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Military Rabbinate speaks to media after identifying the remains of the two Israeli soldiers at the entrance of Rosh Hanikra Lebanon-Israel border crossing, July 16, 2008. Hezbollah returned on Wednesday the two abducted Israeli reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in exchange for five imprisoned Lebanese militants and the remains of some 200 Arabs.

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Military Rabbinate speaks to media after identifying the remains of the two Israeli soldiers at the entrance of Rosh Hanikra Lebanon-Israel border crossing, July 16, 2008. Hezbollah returned on Wednesday the two abducted Israeli reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in exchange for five imprisoned Lebanese militants and the remains of some 200 Arabs. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
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    Before that, Hezbollah returned the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were captured by the group two years ago.

    Hezbollah had been secretive about the fate of the two Israeli abductees, but the last glow of hope for their families eventually disappeared at the sight of two black coffins. It proved that Hezbollah had always feared an Israeli backtracking at the last minute.

    Celebrations were organized on the Lebanese-Israel border crossing of Naqoura. Hezbollah followers carrying the movement's yellow flags were seen heading toward the border crossing since early morning.

    TV footage showed that the five Lebanese returnees received a red-carpet welcome. Hezbollah also sponsored a massive rally in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a traditional venue for the group to celebrate the swap.

    Hezbollah captured Goldwasser and Regev in a cross-border raid that sparked a devastating 34-day war with Israel, which killed some 1,200 Lebanese. The subsequent devastating war prompted many in Lebanon to question whether it was wise for the Hezbollah to abduct the two Israeli soldiers.

Israeli soldiers and police guard at the entrance of Rosh Hanikra Lebanon-Israel border crossing, July 16, 2008. Hezbollah returned on Wednesday the two abducted Israeli reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in exchange for five imprisoned Lebanese militants and the remains of some 200 Arabs.

Israeli soldiers and police guard at the entrance of Rosh Hanikra Lebanon-Israel border crossing, July 16, 2008. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
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    Since the end of the war, Hezbollah has been trying hard to prove the positive outcome of its move despite its apparent miscalculation of Israel's strong response to the abduction.

    Hezbollah has managed to gain military and political strength since the war. It effectively crippled UN Resolution 1501, which laid the foundation for disarming it, imposed its own conditions for the establishment of a new Lebanese government and attained veto power for important decisions in policy making.

    Moreover, the militant group is fighting for a new election law that would ensure its significant gains in next year's election.

    Exchanging the bodies of two Israeli soldiers for the safe return of five Lebanese prisoners, as well as the bodies of 199 Lebanese and Arab fighters seems to have added further credit to Hezbollah, observers said.

    During a rare public appearance to welcome the home-coming prisoners, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech, saying the prisoners swap was a victory and it "closed the chapter of the 2006 war."

    Many feared the lopsided prisoner exchange would encourage more hostage-taking. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said immediately after the deal that the swap represents "a great victory of the resistance" and that Hamas would not abandon the Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel.

    "This is also a proof that kidnapping Zionist soldiers is the best way to free the prisoners since the occupation keeps arresting them," Abu Zuhri added.

    On Tuesday, Israeli National Security Council issued the most severe warning this year that terror cells in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula were plotting to kidnap Israeli citizens, and urged Israelis traveling in the area to leave immediately.

    Meanwhile, Israeli army have beefed up security measures along the border with Lebanon, amid worries that Hezbollah might launch attacks against Israel after the prisoners swap.

Israel, Hezbollah swap prisoners on border

    JERUSALEM, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Israel on Wednesday returned five Lebanese prisoners to Hezbollah after receiving the bodies of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers from the Lebanese group in a prisoners swap between the two sides.

    Four imprisoned Hezbollah militants and a convicted Lebanese killer named Samir Kuntar were handed over to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the Rosh Hanikra border crossing, who then transferred them to the Lebaneseside.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia
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