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Copyright 2004 Jerusalem Post
January 26

HEADLINE: News on Arad could alter prisoner release criteria


Israel would reconsider releasing prisoners with "blood on their hands" in exchange for solid information on missing aviator Ron Arad, a senior Israeli source said.

There is a sense in the defense establishment that the government decision of November 9 would be reconsidered if it meant getting Arad back, the source said.

"We are required to reexamine our criteria barring terrorists with 'blood on their hands' from being released," the source said.

Furthermore, the assessment inside the defense establishment is that despite Nasrallah's threats, the exchange of prisoners wipes the slate clean and there is no longer any legitimacy inside Lebanon for further kidnappings.

As far as Hizbullah is concerned, its kidnapping of the three soldiers in October 2000 on Mount Dov came in response to Israel's kidnapping of Hizbullah's Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani.

According to the deal, Israel will release Samir Kuntar for any solid information on Arad. This could be DNA evidence, even if information is received proving that Arad is dead. The evidence could be blood from a living Arad or pathological evidence like fingerprints or dental samples.

In any case, Kuntar - who commanded a terrorist squad that infiltrated Nahariya in 1979, killing a father, two daughters, and a policeman - will be freed.

The German-brokered exchange deal actually has a deadline of two to three months, due to elections in Germany.

Meanwhile, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon was confident the prisoner exchange deal would "solve the enigma" surrounding Arad.

Speaking before Monday morning's General Staff Forum, Ya'alon also called on the families of civilian Elhanan Tannenbaum and St.-Sgts. Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham, and Omar Sawayid to be strong.

"We hope to have them by the weekend," Ya'alon said. "As for Ron Arad, I hope this arrangement gives us a chance to solve the enigma surrounding him and perhaps lead to his return."

"We also can't forget our obligation to those who are not included in this deal," Ya'alon added. He specifically referred to the three soldiers missing in action in the 1982 battle of Sultan Ya'acoub in Lebanon and Sgt. Guy Hever, who disappeared on the Golan Heights.

"At these moments we are strengthening the families of all the MIAs and POWs, and hope that in the waiting period the families will be able to hold up courageously as they have so far," Ya'alon said.

Meanwhile, senior military sources said the IDF Rabbinate had started to exhume bodies of 59 terrorists to be prepared for the handover, planned to take place at the end of the week. According to military officials, the bodies are to be handed over to Lebanese officials at the Rosh Hanikra crossing point.

The bodies are buried at the cemetery for fallen enemies near Kibbutz Amiad in the Upper Galilee.

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