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Copyright 2004 Jerusalem Post
January 29

HEADLINE: IDF: Avitan, Avraham and Sawayid deceased


Three IDF Generals on Thursday entered the homes of the Avraham, Avitan and Sawayid families with the news that the three soldiers kidnapped by the Hizbullah from Mount Dov three years ago are deceased.

Gen. (res) Yossi Peled, who was involved in the investigation said that apart from learning the lessons of the kidnapping, the circle had been closed on the "unfortunate" affair.

Peled said he believed from a very early stage that the solders were dead from evidence gathered at the site of the kidnapping.

An IDF delegation led by chief army rabbi Brig.-Gen Yisrael Weiss arrived Wednesday in Germany to identify the bodies of St. Sgts. Benny Avraham, Omar Sawayid and Adi Avitan as part of the Israel-Hizbullah prisoner swap.

Besides Weiss, the delegation includes the head of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, Prof. Yehuda Hiss and other police and army representatives. The identification, which employed fingerprinting, x-rays, and dental records, did not take long.

The first batch of prisoners held in Prisons Service jails was released and taken to holding centers at the Sharon Prison and the Ketziot Military Prison, as the first part of the prisoner deal got under way.

In exchange for Hizbullah's release of kidnapped businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of St.-Sgts. Avraham, Avitan, and Sayawid, Israel is to release 462 prisoners.

In the morning, 31 security prisoners from Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Libya, and Germany, who are to be flown abroad as part of the deal, were transferred to Sharon Prison, where they will remain until officials receive the green light to take them to Ben-Gurion Airport, where they will eventually board a plane for Germany.

Among them were Dirani and Sheikh Obeid, both seized from Lebanon as bargaining chips for missing airman Lt.-Col. Ron Arad.

Twenty-three other security prisoners, all Palestinians who were incarcerated in the Nitzan Detention Center in Ramle, were transferred to Ketziot, and will be released to the territories by the IDF.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said there are no winners or losers in the prisoner exchange.

"It is our moral obligation to bring our boys home and also civilian Elhanan Tannenbaum. It is not a question of winners or losers," he said.

"The people of Israel must realize that we won't leave a stone unturned for our missing soldiers."

Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon told reporters that, by the end of the week, the soldiers Israel sent out on a mission in 2000 will finally return home.

Ya'alon, who met with President Moshe Katsav and updated him on the situation, said he is confident the deal will lead to additional progress and information that will bring about the return of Arad, MIAs Zachary Baumel, Tzvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz from the 1982 Sultan Yakoub battle, and soldier Gil Hever.

Shortly before midnight on Monday, the Prisons Service published the names of the 462 prisoners to be released.

The first list of 31 to be flown abroad included three Lebanese nationals who had been sentenced for killing and wounding soldiers in southern Lebanon. Ali Balhatz Hassan Yusef was sentenced to life in 1992 for shooting and killing a soldier and wounding two others.

Jiad al-Katsfi Hassan Hassin was sentenced to life in 1988 for killing an officer and wounding four soldiers. Anwar Yassin Mahmud Mubada was sentenced to 30 years in 1987 for killing three soldiers and wounding five.

A second list contained the names of 371 Palestinian security prisoners and a third list the names of 60 Palestinian administrative detainees.

Officials said none had blood on their hands, and the majority were due to complete their sentences in the near future. Officials said they were charged with shooting attacks, throwing stones and firebombs, belonging to an enemy organization, or entering Israel illegally.

Unlike the first list, the others did not stipulate the offenses committed by the prisoners, thus hampering attempts by Almagor, the terror victims association, to determine who was wounded in the attacks so it could lodge a petition against their release with the courts.

A statement issued by the group said the lists failed to detail their felonies or the names of their victims and where the attacks took place.

Ze'ev Dasberg, the group's lawyer, issued a request to the Justice Ministry and the Prisons Service requesting they supply the details.

Meanwhile, prison officials said that since the lists were published on its Web site, more than 14,000 people had viewed them. Fifty-eight percent were from abroad, and 1,700 were from areas under Palestinian Authority control.

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