Serious Contacts with Hizbullah for Captives' Return

The release of the two IDF soldiers taken captive by Hizbullah in 2006 is closer than ever. No sign that they are alive has ever been rec'd.

Hillel Fendel ,

Regev (l), Goldwasser
Regev (l), Goldwasser
File photo

A deal for the two IDF soldiers taken captive by the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorist organization nearly two years ago is closer than ever.  No sign that they are alive has ever been received, yet Hizbullah child-murderer Samir Kuntar is likely to be among those released in exchange for the two.

Israeli negotiator Ofer Dekel made an official offer to Hizbullah two weeks ago, and it now appears to have been accepted, based on public statements by Hizbullah chieftain Hassan Nasrallah. Israel proposed to release child-murderer and terrorist Samir Kuntar from prison, as well as five other Hizbullah captives and ten dead Hizbullah bodies, in exchange for Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.

Captured Two Years Ago; Six Others Were Killed
Reserve soldiers Regev and Goldwasser were on a routine patrol along the northern border two years ago when Hizbullah terrorists, in a well-planned operation, attacked and took them captive.  Four other IDF soldiers were killed in the operation, and an additional four soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb or mine when they set out in their tank in pursuit of the kidnappers.

Samir Kuntar was convicted of the brutal 1979 killing of a four-year-old Israeli girl and her father in an attack in Nahariya. He first shot the man as his daughter watched, and then murdered her by smashing her head with his rifle butt. The family's other child, a 2-year-old girl, died when her mother covered her mouth to prevent her from crying out and revealing their hiding place. Police officer Eliyahu Shachar was also murdered in the attack.

Dekel, a former Deputy Head of the General Security Service, was appointed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to head the task force dealing exclusively with the captives' return. Olmert appointed him when the Second Lebanon War ended. Though Olmert and then-Defense Minister Amir Peretz said repeatedly during the war that its goals were to return the Israeli captives and neutralize Hizbullah, the ultimate ceasefire agreement stated only that the UN will "act for the return of the captives" and will present a periodic report on progress to this end. 

Olmert explained at the time that it had not been possible to make the ceasefire agreement contingent upon the soldiers' return.

The Families
Ehud Goldwasser, 33, of Nahariya, married Karnit less than a year before he was captured; she is technically a "living widow," living in limbo without clear evidence that he is alive or dead.  Eldad Regev, 28, unmarried, is from Kiryat Motzkin. 

The two captives are not assumed to be alive - partly because of an official army report saying they were critically wounded during the kidnapping and that at least one of them likely died, and partly because of the relatively low price that Israel has succeeded in achieving for their release. As opposed to Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Hamas two weeks before the Hizbullah kidnapping, not a single sign that they are alive has ever been received.

Hizbullah Demands Kuntar's Release
Israel has long made Kuntar's release contingent upon some word from Syria regarding long-time captive Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad.  However, such word has never come - a UN mediator has said that no such information exists - and Kuntar is now likely to be released in any event.

Hizbullah chieftain Hassan Nasrallah told thousands of supporters in Lebanon Monday, "We will soon see Samir Kuntar home with us." If reports of the deal are accurate, it could still take several weeks to acutally consummate it.