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Copyright 2001 Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem Post

August 24, 2001

HEADLINE: Hostages' Families Denounce High Court's Decision

BYLINE: David Rudge

HAIFA (August 24) - Families of the three IDF soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah denounced yesterday's High Court of Justice decision to allow representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit two Lebanese, Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani, being held prisoners by Israel.

They charged that the unanimous decision by the panel of five judges had removed one of the few remaining bargaining chips for receiving information about the soldiers, St.-Sgts. Binyamin Avraham and Omar Suwayed and Sgt. Adi Avitan, as well as Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum, a reserve colonel, also being held by Hizbullah.

"The judges in their decision have abandoned our sons, Benny, Adi and Omar and Elhanan ," said Binyamin's father Haim Avraham.

He said lawyers acting on behalf of the state and the families would seek an injunction to prevent implementation of the decision pending an appeal for a second hearing over the issue by a panel of 11 judges.

Avraham maintained that two of the judges, Mishael Cheshin and Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, who presided over the five-member panel, had previously ruled that the interests of state security and those sent to defend it was paramount.

"I don't understand what suddenly made them change their minds, especially as we have not received one iota of information about the state of our sons since they were kidnapped," said Avraham.

Hizbullah welcomed the decision, but said it would have no bearing on negotiations over the four Israelis.

"Israel's High Court decision should have been made a long time ago. This decision, although late, is good and making it now is better than delaying it any longer," a Hizbullah spokesman said in a statement.

"This decision has nothing to do at all with the talks over the detainees and captives in Israeli jails or the Zionist soldiers detained by Hizbullah," he said.

The three soldiers were abducted during a Hizbullah ambush in the Mount Dov region last October 7. A few days later Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah announced that the organization was also holding Tannenbaum, apparently kidnapped while abroad.

Since then, Hizbullah has refused to give any details about the condition of the hostages and has demanded the release of Lebanese, including Obeid and Dirani, and Arabs being held by Israel in return for verifiable information about the abductees.

The organization has also consistently refused repeated requests by ICRC officials to be allowed to visit the hostages.

Obeid, a regional leader of Hizbullah in south Lebanon and Dirani, head of the Amal breakaway Believers Resistance, were snatched by Israel several years ago. Dirani, as former security chief of Amal was responsible for IAF navigator Ron Arad who has been missing since ejecting from his plane over Lebanon in 1986.

Avraham said Israel had supplied information to the Lebanese over the condition of Obeid and Dirani and there was no earthly reason for ICRC visits to them to be resumed in light of Hizbullah's intransigence on even this basic humanitarian matter.

"As long as we retained this little bargaining chip there was a slim chance that Hizbullah might release details about the state of our sons," said Avraham.

"The court ruling in my opinion is a grave mistake and contradicts the previous opinions and rulings of Cheshin and Barak on this issue.

"In the past Cheshin said that the state and not just the IDF had a responsibility to those it sends out into the field to defend its citizens that they would always know they would not be abandoned in the same way that you are not supposed to leave wounded in the field of battle.

"The ruling abrogates that responsibility, quite apart from the heartache and grief it causes us, the families," Avraham added.

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