The prestigious German weekly Der Spiegel reports, in an incidental manner, that the two IDF soldiers who have been held captive by Hizbullah for 16 months are dead. The article is a feature essay on the unnamed German mediator in the talks between Israel and Hizbullah for the release of the two soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
The paper says that Israeli officials also believe that Regev and Goldwasser were killed.
Unlike Gilad Shalit - an IDF soldier who was kidnapped by the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza two weeks before Regev and Goldwasser - not a single sign of life has been heard from the latter two since the day they were captured. The Red Cross has not been permitted to visit them, nor have any letters been received from them.
The kidnappers of Shalit, on the other hand, released an audio tape of the voice of their captive this past June, marking the first anniversary of his capture. Shalit's parents and a high-ranking defense official confirmed that the tape was authentic.
Another sign that the two are not alive is that rumors of prisoner exchanges have always specified "hundreds" of imprisoned terrorists in exchange for Shalit, but a much smaller price for Regev and Goldwasser. The official Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported a "handful of Lebanese prisoners" as the price in August 2006. This number has rarely climbed to more than the nearly 30 Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. More recent reports state that the price was to be an Iranian murderer imprisoned in Germany.
The talks between Israel and Hizbullah currently focus, Der Spiegel reports, on Hizbullah's demand that Israel release Lebanese murderer Samir Kuntar. In 1979, Kuntar brutally murdered Danny Haran in front of his four-year-old daughter, and then killed her by smashing her head with his rifle butt. Another daughter, aged 2, died when her mother covered her mouth to prevent her from crying out and revealing their hiding place. An Israeli policeman was also killed in the attack.
Hizbullah terrorist chieftain Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to attain the release of Kuntar, while for Israel, Kuntar is the epitome of a terrorist with "blood on his hands" that Israel has pledged never to release.
Also on the table in exchange for the two IDF captives are four Hizbullah fighters currently held by Israel.
Israel still demands information on the fate of felled Israeli navigator Ron Arad, who was captured in Lebanon in 1986 and from whom very little has ever been heard. Last week, Hizbullah provided to Israel a letter written by Ron to his wife Tami shortly after his capture. Tami later confirmed that the letter was genuine, based on his handwriting and the family nicknames he used.