JERUSALEM Ñ 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
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
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
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
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.