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Israel considered abducting Hizbullah's Nasrallah

Special to World Tribune.com
MIDDLE EAST NEWSLINE
Monday, November 10, 2003

JERUSALEM Israel examined a military plan to abduct Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah.

Israeli officials said the plan was drafted by an elite military unit and approved by then-Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz sometime in 2001. The plan called for an Israeli commando squad to enter Beirut, capture Nasrallah and bring him to Israel.

The plan approved by Mofaz was aimed at obtaining information of Israeli Air Force navigator Ron Arad. Arad was captured in 1986 in southern Lebanon, transferred to Hizbullah and never heard from again. Nasrallah was believed to know Arad's whereabouts.

For more than two years, Israeli officials have been negotiating with Hizbullah for a prisoner exchange. But Hizbullah refused to include Arad in any deal, saying it did not have any information on the F-4E navigator.

Mofaz's plan was rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Officials said Sharon was concerned that the abduction of Nasrallah was not feasible and would escalate tension in the Middle East.

On Sunday, Israel's Cabinet approved by a 12-11 vote a proposed deal for Israel to release more than 400 Arab and Palestinian prisoners. In return, Israel would acquire a reserve colonel, Elhanan Tanenbaum, and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers killed in a Hizbullah border operation in October 2000.

A Cabinet communique said 400 Palestinian prisoners will be allowed to return to their homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The communique said several dozens of prisoners would be allowed to return to such countries as Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Syria.

"These prisoners and detainees will be selected according to the criteria that those with blood on their hands will not be released," the communique said.

Hizbullah has demanded the release of a Lebanese national, Samir Quntar, who was convicted to life for killing an Israeli family more than 20 years ago. So far, Israel has refused.

"We, too, have red lines," Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said. The Cabinet communique said Israel would also transfer information regarding anti-personnel mine fields in southern Lebanon. The ministers said Arad was not in the Hizbullah deal, but that the government would try to locate and release him as well as three Israeli soldiers missing from the 1982 war in Lebanon.

Israel and Hizbullah were expected to take weeks to complete any prisoner exchange. Israeli officials said any prisoner exchange would require three stages until the deal is completed. They would include the exchange of names of those to be released, the collection of DNA from the bodies of Israeli soldiers and negotiations on the arrangements of exchange. =

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