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Copyright 2001 Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem Post

November 8, 2001

HEADLINE: Ben-Eliezer: Information on missing soldiers was reliable

BYLINE: Arieh O'Sullivan

The crucial intelligence the government received that led the IDF to finally rule the three soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah last year are dead came from a very reliable witness, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said yesterday.

"Throughout the year, we did not hide information from the families. When the intelligence came that left us no doubt that the three boys were dead, we told them about it," Ben-Eliezer said. "I think that it is our duty to convey the information regarding this difficult piece of information someone witnessed."

Asked in an interview with Army Radio if the witness saw three bodies, Ben-Eliezer said: "You are pushing me to where I don't want to go. The prime minister and defense minister wouldn't have made such a difficult decision if it was not based on solid information. We are continuing our negotiations to return the bodies. The intelligence in our hands is from reliable sources."

Ben-Eliezer's statements were the most revealing the defense establishment has made regarding the proof that made it declare last week that St.-Sgt. Binyamin Avraham, Sgt. Adi Avitan, and St.-Sgt. Omar Suwayed were killed during their abduction.

The IDF has refrained from detailing the proof to protect its sources.

Last night, Ben-Eliezer's office issued a clarification, saying he was speaking in principle and not referring to any concrete information.

"In the minister's comments, there was no reference at all to concrete information, but rather he was giving an example of the type of information needed to make a decision of such importance," the statement said. "Viewing this in any other way would be twisting his comments."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the families of the three soldiers during a condolence visit yesterday revealing any information about how the decision regarding their fate was made would harm national security and the sources from which the information was received.

The families asked that the government do all it can to bring their bodies back for burial.

Sharon told the families he had asked UN and international officials to make Syria's joining the Security Council conditional on providing information on the condition of the soldiers, but to no avail.

"Syria is responsible for what is going on in Lebanon... we will do all we can to continue efforts to return the soldiers for burial," he told the families.

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