Copyright 2003 Jerusalem Post
HEADLINE: Red Cross: Negotiations for missing soldiers have reached "point of no return"
BYLINE: THE JERUSALEM POST INTERNET STAFF
The chief representative of the International Red Cross in Israel, Franscois Blon, Wednesday visited the parents of missing Israeli soldier Benny Avraham at their home in Petah Tikva. Avraham was kidnapped by Hizbullah from Har Dov on the Lebanese border in October 2000.
Before the meeting, Blon told reporters he had no new information about the fate of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers held by the Lebanese Shiite group. "We are not party to any negotiations," said the Red Cross chief, adding "I am here to be with the family in these very difficult times for them. The minute we have any new information about the kidnapped soldiers, we will ofcourse update the families."
Despite saying he had no new information about the fate of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers held by the Lebanese Shiite group, Blon did say that negotiations between Israel and the Hizbullah had already reached "the point of no return".
Haim Avraham, Benny Avraham's father, said at his meeting with Blon that he hoped the families of the kidnapped soldiers would soon receive good news about their sons. "This is the first time that we really feel something is happening," Avraham said.
Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Souad were abducted by Hezbollah while patrolling the Israel-Lebanon border in October 2000.
Benny's sister, Efrat, told Army Radio that she believes that the prisoner swap will take place in the near future.
"Nobody is updating us on what is going on with the negotiations," Efrat said. "We are tensely waiting and having difficulty sleeping at night because it appears today to be close than ever before."
Earlier Wednesday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that Israel would make every possible effort to bring all of the MIAs home.
"I commit myself to not disregard or forget any of the missing people. We will do all we can in order to bring the sons home," the defense minister said.
The mediation efforts to return Israelis kidnapped by Hizbullah brightened Tuesday, with top Israeli and Hizbullah officials expressing optimism that a prisoner swap might be concluded "within months."
The breakthrough in the German-mediated negotiations occurred Monday, when Israel released into Hizbullah custody the bodies of two gunmen killed in attacks against the IDF in southern Lebanon.
In exchange for the bodies, Hizbullah permitted German mediator Ernest Uhrlau access to Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum, kidnapped in Switzerland in October 2000.
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