Copyright 2003 Jerusalem Post
HEADLINE:Victim's family: Hizbullah abductees should be released, too
BYLINE: David Rudge
The family of Elhanan Tannenbaum, who was kidnapped by Hizbullah in October 2000, is calling on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to take advantage of the opportunity resulting from regional developments to bring about the return of all missing Israelis.
The plea is contained in a letter to Sharon as the Knesset is to hold a special session Tuesday to mark 1,000 days since his abduction just a week after a similar anniversary for the three IDF soldiers snatched in an Hizbullah ambush in the Mount Dov region.
Tannenbaum's son Ori, who recently completed his army service, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that there had to be a correlation between the release of Palestinian prisoners and the return of his father and all the other hostages and missing Israelis.
"We have recently witnessed the conclusion of another phase in America's war on global terrorism and we have seen American POWs returning home from the war in Iraq," said Ori.
"We have marked 1,000 days since the outbreak of the new [Palestinian] intifada, and it appears that we might soon see an end to this bitter and bloody chapter in Israel's history.
"We hear the speeches full of hope, and see the intensive developments taking place in the Middle East. We witnessed Palestinians being released from Israeli jails, and our hearts are shattered because our loved ones are still missing, or in captivity.
"We welcome every move towards ending the violence and restoring calm, and we fully understand the heavy price to achieve this end. We fear, however, that in the course of all these major developments, the issue of our father and the other missing Israelis will be pushed aside."
Tannenbaum was kidnapped while on a trip abroad, a few days after the Hizbullah ambush on the Israeli side of the UN delineated withdrawal line in the Mount Dov region of staff sergeants Avraham Binyamin, Omar Sawayid, and Adi Avitan.
The IDF has since declared the three kidnapped soldiers dead, and their places of burial unknown.
Three other soldiers, Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman, are still missing from the Sultan Yakoub battle in Lebanon in 1982, as well as IAF navigator Ron Arad, who was captured in Lebanon after ejecting from his plane in 1986, and Guy Hever, who has been missing since leaving his army base on the Golan several years ago.
Tannenbaum's family, in the letter to the prime minister, noted that Sharon had made a commitment to help secure the release and return of Tannenbaum, and all other missing Israelis.
"Our father is a victim of the same terror that has embroiled Israel in a state of turmoil for the past 1,000 days," said Ori Tannenbaum.
"It is inconceivable that these significant developments taking place now to end the conflict will not include the release and return of our father, the other kidnap victims, and the missing."
Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah announced several months ago that Tannenbaum is still alive, but his family fears that every day that passes endangers his life and reduces the prospects of his safe return.
There were reports on Tuesday that Germany, the main mediator in efforts to broker and exchange with Hizbullah, has resumed top level negotiations.
Ori Tannenbaum, however, said he was unaware of any such developments, and that it appeared to be another misinformation exercise by Hizbullah, which has so far refused to participate in genuine negotiations, despite the "very high price" that Israel is prepared to pay.
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