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Copyright 2001 Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem Post

February 5, 2001

HEADLINE: Sneh denies report of prisoner swap

BYLINE: Arieh O'Sullivan and David Rudge

JERUSALEM - Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh yesterday dismissed weekend reports of an imminent prisoner swap with Hizbullah as disinformation. The report in the Lebanese Al-Mustaqbal newspaper quoted a Hizbullah official as saying Israel was "anxious" to secure a deal before tomorrow's election, in order to recover three IDF soldiers and a civilian abducted by the organization in October.

"This is all psychological warfare. They are experts at it," Sneh said. "Don't be drawn in by all these reports from Lebanon from elements whose main intention is to foul up our position and hurt the families of the kidnapped soldiers and bring us to a weak state in negotiations," Sneh said, adding that the negotiations for the release of the kidnapped Israelis should not be linked in any way to tomorrow's election.

Sneh said mediators were constantly working on forging a deal to receive any information possible on the three soldiers' condition, but have not yet received any.

Haim Avraham, father of kidnapped St.-Sgt. Binyamin Avraham, said yesterday that the families of the four Israelis held by Hizbullah had not received any new information.

"From the moment our boys were kidnapped until today, we have not been informed of anything new... I asked people who are in contact with us in the security network and others, and nobody could tell me about any new developments, apart from telling me that there are negotiations," said Avraham in an interview with Israel Radio.

"There aren't any answers - not about the state of the negotiations, nor the situation of our boys... We don't know about their status, their health, whether anybody has seen them or filmed them, or can tell us about how they feel - nothing," he said.

Avraham said he tried to avoid becoming excited over reports from Lebanon, knowing that these could be part of Hizbullah's psychological warfare.

"I try to close my ears and just listen to the official authorities of the state. Apart from them, I don't listen to anybody and [these reports] don't do anything to me. My only hope is that the state is doing everything possible to bring my son and the other boys home," he said.

The Prime Minister's Office, in response to the Lebanese media reports, said Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the entire security establishment were trying constantly and through various channels to bring about the return of the hostages as speedily as possible.

The statement said the families, whose feelings at such a difficult period could not be argued with, also understand that publicizing details of the current situation and the efforts being made could harm the overall aim of securing the release and return of the kidnap victims.

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