|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
19 - 25 October 2000
Issue No. 504
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Hizbullah strikes againBy Dalal Saoud
When the news came this week that Hizbullah was holding another Israeli army officer, it was yet another embarrassing twist in the unfolding story around the recent uprising in the occupied Palestinian territories. Hizbullah leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah said that the group had lured the officer, identified as Elhanan Tennenbaum, from Brussels to Lebanon, where he was captured, in what Nasrallah described as "a complicated security operation."
The announcement came only a week after Hizbullah guerrillas seized three Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese-Israeli border and proposed to exchange them with Lebanese and Arab detainees held in Israeli prisons. The tensions mounting around recent events have prompted Lebanese forces to prevent Palestinian refugees from reaching the Lebanese-Israeli border, although peaceful demonstrations protesting Israeli violence continued in refugee shantytowns.
Early this week, Lebanese soldiers adopted tight security measures along the coast of southern Lebanon to maintain order on the Israeli border. A political analyst told Al-Ahram Weekly that Lebanon had come under Arab and international pressure to stop the Palestinian border protests out of fears that the demonstrations could get out of control and result in Palestinian guerrillas carrying out military attacks. The analyst remarked that the army's move was "a turning point", indicating that Lebanon has realised how serious the border situation could become.
Amid Israel's fierce efforts to quell the Palestinian Intifada and threats of Israeli forces shooting at Lebanese border protesters, Timor Goskel, spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL), warned against "losing control" on the border. Rolf Knuttson, personal representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, called on Lebanon to consolidate its security presence in southern Lebanon following separate border clashes between Israeli forces and Hizbullah and Palestinian protesters. Following the 24 May pullout of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon that ended 22 years of occupation, a 1,000-member Lebanese security force was stationed there.
Lebanon's tacit allowance of Palestinian refugees collecting at the border in recent weeks revealed an insistence on reminding Israel and the world of the Palestinian cause. "Any Palestinian military action across the Lebanese border would lead to an inequitable war [with Israel]," warned former Lebanese Foreign Minister Fares Boueis. "Such armed movement should be prevented, while still allowing political movements to express their sympathy with the Palestinians." Boueis emphasised that "only an Intifada from inside the Palestinian territories" will prove to be effective, and "the sole means of the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israel."
Last week's capture of the three Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah, followed by the capture of another officer shortly after, added to mounting Lebanese fears of an Israeli retaliation. But with such a valuable catch in the hands of Hizbullah, one military expert suggested, Israel will have to think twice before attacking Lebanon: "[Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Barak has no choice but to accept the proposed swap, but he might also carry out military strikes against Lebanon, and probably Syria -- not because of his captured soldiers, but if peace talks with the Palestinians reach a dead end."
The announcement by Hizbullah's Nasrallah on Sunday that his group has captured an Israeli army colonel came as a surprise to Israel. After hours of scrambling to confirm the claim, Israel finally acknowledged that an Israeli businessman had gone missing in Europe and accused Hizbullah of abducting him and bringing him to Lebanon. The Hizbullah chief waited a full day before disclosing any details of the operation, stating that Elhanan Tennenbaum was apprehended in Lebanon after he willingly travelled there from Brussels on a false foreign passport.
Nasrallah said that Tennenbaum, who was a commander of an Israeli battalion that took part in the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and bombardment of Beirut, is now an agent with the Israeli intelligence service Mossad trying to infiltrate Hizbullah. According to Nasrallah, Tennenbaum was lured by a Hizbullah "cadre", who offered him "important but harmless information" on the resistance.
Nasrallah defended Tennenbaum's apprehension, declaring that it was "not a kidnapping." He argued that Hizbullah had the "legitimate right" to arrest the Israeli officer, since he was on Lebanese territory and the two countries are still "in a state of war." Nasrallah reiterated his readiness to exchange all four Israelis with some 19 Lebanese detainees and a number of Palestinian and Arab prisoners being held in Israeli jails, but he said Israel hasn't shown a serious intention to recover its soldiers. The Hizbullah leader made clear that his group "will not give any information to any party" on the fate of the soldiers, and wants the release of some detainees before starting negotiations over the proposed swap.
Nasrallah warned Israel against retaliatory attacks in Lebanon, saying, "They know such aggressions will be harshly responded to. We are ready to face any action. The time of taking revenge on Lebanon is over.
Israel's dilemma 12 - 18 October 2000
Hizbullah on the move 12 - 18 October 2000
Making Lebanon whole again 1 - 7 June 2000
Liberation 25 - 31 May 2000
See also Intifada in focus 12 - 18 October 2000
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