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Copyright 2001 Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem Post

August 22, 2001

HEADLINE: Israeli Team Views UN Videotapes in Geneva

BYLINE: Jonathan Fowler (The Associated Press)

GENEVA (AP) Israeli experts today studied videotapes and bloodstained items that may shed light on the seizing of three Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese border last October.

The eight-member team, following up on an Israeli inspection in New York earlier this month, included legal, forensic and medical specialists, Israel's UN Ambassador Yaakov Levy told reporters.

The eight-hour viewing took place under tight security at the United Nations European offices in Geneva. Levy said he was "satisfied" with UN cooperation.

After looking at the two videotapes and seven bloodstained items at UN headquarters in New York on Aug. 8, Israeli officials and army officers said many questions remain unanswered, including how badly the three soldiers may have been wounded.

Levy said the team in Geneva had viewed "new items" unseen in New York. "We won't go into specifics because of the delicacy of the situation," he said.

But he said he hoped the viewing would help the team "determine the state and situation of the soldiers," adding that several members the delegation would stay for another day to continue examinations

The militant Hizbullah group which is believed to be holding the men has refused to divulge information about their conditions or allow Red Cross access to the captives. It said it will not release them until Israel frees Lebanese and Arab prisoners.

The bloodstained items were taken from two vehicles believed to have been involved in the Oct. 7 capture.

The World Health Organization is expected to arrange an analysis of the blood to determine if it is from the Israeli soldiers.

In an about-face, Israel earlier this month accepted UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's offer to view an edited version of a tape filmed by an Indian peacekeeper 18 hours after the capture. It shows armed Hizbullah terrorists demanding that UN peacekeepers hand over the two vehicles.

The Israeli delegation is also believed to have seen an unedited version of a newly discovered UN tape taken at the time of the capture. It shows smoke that could be from the burning jeep the Israeli soldiers were driving.

Last month, Annan ordered an investigation into the mishandling of the tape showing the confrontation with Hizbullah terrorists. UN officials denied for months that they had the tape, which caused friction with Israel.

The Aug. 3 report on the investigation revealed the existence of another tape showing Israeli positions under fire on the day of the abduction. But the UN said the tape did not show the kidnapping.

Levy refused to say whether the delegation had seen the video.

The UN said relatives of the missing soldiers would be welcome to view the material as part of the Israeli delegation. But no family members were at today's viewing.

The Lebanese government has argued that letting Israel see the video sets "a dangerous precedent" by relaying information from inside Lebanon to the Israelis.

Hizbullah leaders said that UN peacekeepers would be considered spies if the organization let Israel watch the tape.

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