Image of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on Hamas poster
WASHINGTON – The forecast for Jews living in Israel calls for a heightened chance of kidnappings, now that one captured Israeli soldier has been swapped for more than a thousand terrorists.
That’s the outright warning from terror groups both inside and outside of the embattled country.
On the very day Israel and Hamas agreed to the prisoner exchange, Hamas in Israel took a formal decision to kidnap more Jewish soldiers, according to a top leader of the Islamist group’s so-called military wing.
Abu Abdullah of Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades told WND that last Thursday, the Hamas “military wing” appointed a new team to draft plans to kidnap more Israeli soldiers.
Israel and Hamas reached a deal that was finalized Sunday for the release of Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, in exchange for the freedom of some 1,027 Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails.
Shalit is now back in Israel after the deal was carried out Tuesday.
On Sunday, WND reported the chief of Hamas in the Gaza Strip stated in an interview the exchange emboldens his group to kidnap more Israelis to extract further concessions from the Jewish state.
Mahmoud al-Zahar was asked in a radio interview whether the exchange demonstrates the value of nabbing Israeli soldiers.
The Hamas chieftain replied: “The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah negotiated for many years, and they failed to release anybody. Now by the kidnapping (of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit) and the release, the Palestinian people succeeded to set free this number (of prisoners) by this way.”
He continued, “I think it’s good for the Israelis to think thoroughly, solve the problem smoothly and not to give a chance for the repetition of this event. It is wise for the Israelis to schedule the release of the rest of the Palestinians.”
Now, similar comments are being made by high-level Loyalty to the Resistance, or Hezbollah, in Lebanon, which worked with Hamas in the early days of Shalit’s capture on how to negotiate his release with the Israelis.
Hussein Mousawi, a Hezbollah member of the Lebanese parliament, said that the prisoner swaps between Hamas and the “Zionist entity” is “the choice of resistance” that is “the only option to restore the occupied land and the mortgaged rights and sanctities.”
Mousawi, whose comments appeared on Hezbollah’s official moqawama, or resistance, website, pointed out that such swaps are an “historic achievement (which) eliminates all the visions and theories of negotiations’ effectiveness.”
In making an appeal, Mousawi said that such swaps will be necessary to deal with a “U.S. administration (which) is leading and protecting the arrogance of imperialism as well as the brutality and aggressions of five million Zionist occupiers against three hundred million Arabs.”
Other Hezbollah members of parliament echoed Mousawi’s comments suggesting that such kidnappings will continue as long as Israel continues to hold Palestinians in prison.
“We shall not forget the thousands of Palestinian detainees who are still imprisoned in Israeli prisons which is a stigma to the so-called institutions of the international community that do not care about the Palestinian cause,” said Hizballah Lebanese parliamentary member Ali Ammar who praised Hamas over the swap arrangement.
Informed sources say it was Hezbollah that gave advice to Hamas in June 2006 soon after its members had kidnapped Shalit in a cross-border raid near the Kerem Shalom crossing.
The swap of Shalit for 1,027 Palestinians, however, is a first for Hamas but has been a tactic used for more than 20 years by Hezbollah in which kidnapped soldiers are regarded as “strategic assets.
Sources say that Hezbollah had sent a report to Hamas headquarters in Damascus where Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal was living at the time with recommendations on how best to negotiate a prisoner exchange deal with Israel, regarding Shalit as a “strategic asset” that Hamas had in its possession.
The secret communiqué came two years after a similar prisoner swap had taken place in 2004 between Israel and Hezbollah.
Hezbollah delivered the remains of three Israeli Defense Forces soldiers killed in a cross-border raid on the Israel-Lebanon border. In addition, Hezbollah handed over a former IDF officer, Elhanan Tannenbaum, who had been held previously for three years.
They were exchanged for 401 Palestinian prisoners and the remains of 60 Hezbollah fighters.
“The Arab struggle against Israeli aggressions is full of luminous historic achievements in more than one prison swap,” the Hezbollah website pointed out.
In March 1974, some 65 Palestinians were exchanged for two Israeli soldiers captured in Egypt on espionage charges.
In 1979, Israel released 76 Palestinian fighters for one Israeli soldier captured in Lebanon in April 1978.
In 1983, Israel freed 4,600 Arab detainees in return for six Israeli soldiers held in Lebanon.
Similarly, in June 1984, Israel swapped 291 Syrians captured in battle and returned the remains of 72 Syrians for six Israelis and five Israeli bodies.
In May 1985, Israel released 1,150 Arab prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command.
A month later, Israel then freed 331 Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the return of 39 foreign passengers hijacked on a TWA plane to Beirut.
Then in July 1996, Germany brokered a swap of 123 Hezbollah fighters in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
In January 2004, Israel released 436 Palestinian and other Arab prisoners in exchange for Tannenbaum, along with senior Hezbollah member Sheikh Abd al-Karim Obeid who was abducted from his home in South Lebanon by Israeli commandos. He was kidnapped in July 1989.
Along with Obeid, the Israelis also released Mustafa Dirani, another member of Hezbollah from the Baka’a Valley who also was kidnapped by Israeli commandos at his home in front of his children and wife.
Hezbollah sources say that Dirani was severely tortured while in prison, including rape. His abduction was an effort to get information on the missing Israeli airman Ron Arad whose aircraft was shot down in South Lebanon in 1986. Despite many years of negotiations for Arad’s freedom, even by German officials, it later was determined that he had died in captivity, possibly in Iran.
Then in 2006, Hezbollah fired rockets at an Israeli border town and captured two severely wounded Israeli soldiers in the process. The episode was an effort by Hezbollah to use the soldiers as bargaining chips to free Samir Kintar, known as the “dean of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli prisons,” according to the Hezbollah website.
Kintar as a teenager had kidnapped an Israeli family in 1979 that resulted in the deaths of four of them. He was sentenced to four life sentences.
The border episode prompted the 34-day 2006 Lebanon War until a U.N. truce could be worked out.
Following the end of that conflict which left some 1,200 people, mostly Lebanese, dead and a severely damaged country infrastructure, Kintar was released along with hundreds of Hezbollah dead and dozens of Palestinian prisoners. In return, Hezbollah returned the bodies of the two dead Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
The history of kidnappings for release of thousands of Lebanese prisoners appears to be a weapon of choice to use in bargaining with Israel and underscores what Hezbollah Secretary General Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah in the past has stated that such kidnappings of Israelis will be the policy of Hezbollah to secure the release of Lebanese prisoners.
While future kidnappings may be in the offing to secure the release of Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons, negotiations of the swaps for Hamas and Hezbollah before them forces direct negotiations with Israel and could form the basis for discussions on other contentious issues.
F. Michael Maloof, staff writer for WND’s G2Bulletin, is a former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He can be contacted at [email protected].