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Copyright 2001 Ha'aretz
Name Of Newspaper

October 24, 2001

HEADLINE: Hezbollah Rejects Offer for Kidnapped Four

BYLINE: Amos Harel

Hezbollah has rejected an offer from Israel for a "significant reward" in exchange for any sign of life from four kidnapped Israelis it has held since last October.

Three Israeli soldiers, Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham, and Omar Souad were snatched from the Israeli border with Lebanon. Shortly afterward Hezbollah also kidnapped Israeli businessman Elhanan Tanenbaum while he was visiting Europe.

Germany is continuing to mediate between Israel and Hezbollah, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said yesterday while on a tour of the northern border. "We do not have any exact information, apart from the fact that the four are there [held by Hezbollah]," he said.

"We were prepared to offer a lot more than people think just to visit or see them. We suggested being given a videotape, an audio tape, [a piece of] handwriting. But it was not well received." He promised efforts to free them would continue and said he believed the four were still alive.

Ben-Eliezer also said Hezbollah threats to kidnap more soldiers, and even civilians, were being taken seriously. Hezbollah poses a strategic threat to Israel, he said.

Israel is still upset by the United Nations' behavior over the kidnapping of the soldiers from the Har Dov area, said Ben-Eliezer. He called Syria's temporary admission to the UN Security Council "the height of cynicism." He said Syria "is a state harboring 20 terrorist organizations and individuals, including the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad."

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