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Copyright 2000 Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem Post

October 17, 2000

HEADLINE: Tannenbaum's daughter appeals for his release

BYLINE: David Rudge

HAIFA (October 17) - The daughter of Elhanan Tannenbaum, the Israeli kidnapped by Hizbullah in an operation by the extremist Shi'ite organization abroad, made an impassioned plea last night for the release of her father.

Keren Tannenbaum said the abduction of her father, 56, [sic] by Hizbullah was immoral and inhumane.

"My father is sick and needs medication. I and my family are very worried about him and hope he will return home safe and well," said Keren last night.

Earlier, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah confirmed that the "Israeli army colonel" being held by the organization was indeed Elhanan Tannenbaum.

Nasrallah, at a press conference in Lebanon yesterday, maintained that the abductee was a member of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency who had been trying to breach Hizbullah's hierarchy by recruiting a senior member of the organization.

The claims have been categorically denied by Israeli officials who maintained that Tannenbaum was a normal citizen who had gone abroad on private business.

According to some reports, Tannenbaum, who was said to have been an officer in the IDF Artillery Corps, had business dealings with Arabs, and it was the latter who captured him and handed him over to Hizbullah. These reports maintain that the Arab businessmen used Iranian embassies and their diplomatic auspices in order to smuggle him to Lebanon.

Iran claims that four of its diplomats were snatched in 1982 during the early stages of the Lebanon War and it holds Israel responsible for their safety and welfare.

Nasrallah yesterday tried to disclaim any Iranian involvement in the kidnapping of Tannenbaum, saying he was a Mossad agent who had been lured to Lebanon on the basis of meeting the Hizbullah contact he had been hoping to recruit.

According to Nasrallah's version of events, Tannenbaum was followed by Hizbullah operatives after his arrival in Lebanon from Brussels, Belgium, using a false passport, and was then "arrested" by Hizbullah. This action, said Nasrallah, could not be considered a kidnapping in light of the circumstances, but the detention of a secret agent.

"When you have an officer of the rank of colonel who has worked for a long time with the Mossad and wanted to penetrate Hizbullah at a higher level and comes to Lebanon of his own free will... it is the legitimate right of the resistance [Hizbullah] to capture and detain him," he said.

Nevertheless, Nasrallah declined to give any details about the health of Tannenbaum or the three IDF soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah on October 7, other than to say they were well.

Nasrallah made it clear that Hizbullah would not allow representatives of any international organization to visit the abductees or examine their state of health unless Israel was to first make some gestures.

These would include the release of Lebanese held by Israel - notably Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani although Nasrallah did not mention them by name - as well as the return of all those missing since 1982.

At the Sharm e-Sheikh summit yesterday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan promised Prime Minister Ehud Barak yesterday he would do what he could to bring about Tannenbaum's release.

Barak said he expected the UN to take the necessary measures to bring Tannenbaum home, and discussed a recent disturbing overtures on the part of Lebanese Prime Minister Selim Hoss toward Nasrallah.

It was not clear whether Barak also discussed the recent capture of three Israeli soldiers along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Nasrallah indicated that Hizbullah was prepared for a speedy resolution of the hostage crisis, saying the United Nations, the Russians and the French had already made overtures regarding negotiations, although German involvement was very weak, despite previous mediation by Germany.

Using psychological warfare tactics which the organization has honed over its years of battle against Israel, Nasrallah turned to the parents of the three kidnapped IDF soldiers, saying they should be aware that Israel had so far done nothing to secure their release. He maintained the soldiers were well despite bloodstains found at the scene of the kidnapping that would indicate that one or more of the soldiers was wounded.

Nasrallah warned of a severe response by Hizbullah if Israel were to take retaliatory action over the latest events.

Security sources in Israel said Nasrallah's comments further clouded the issue instead of clarifying it, and that there were grave doubts about the veracity of some of his statements.

Officials in Israel and the Israeli embassy in Berne, Switzerland, from where Tannenbaum was reportedly snatched, stressed that although he held the rank of colonel on his release from the IDF, he was not involved in any military or intelligence activities but was simply a private businessman.

A senior official from the Defense Ministry told The Jerusalem Post last night that Elhanan Tannenbaum had anything to do with the Mossad.

"Tannenbaum never had any links with the Mossad or any kind of clandestine activity. He never received anything from the defense establishment or Mossad. He never acted for the Mossad," the senior official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In London, the Daily Telegraph said a man named Hanan Tannenbaum was among five Israeli agents arrested in Lausanne in 1998 while trying to bug the flat of a Hizbullah suspect.

(Arieh O'Sullivan and Janine Zacharia contributed to this report.)

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