Copyright  The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post
Friday, March 15, 1991
ARENS: IRAN'S HINTS A GOOD OMEN FOR ISRAELI CAPTIVES
by : BRADLEY BURSTON and DAVID RUDGE
Iran's reported offer to help free six American hostages held by Lebanese Shi'ites may be a good sign for Israeli captives too, Defense Minister Moshe Arens said yesterday.
ABC news reported that Iran had notified Secretary of State James Baker that any help from Teheran to free hostages would be tied to the release of Shi'ite Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid, whom an IDF commando unit kidnapped in 1989 from his village in Southern Lebanon in July.
Obeid, considered a central Hizbullah leader with ties to numerous terror operations, has been held in Israel since the commando raid, and is seen as a potentially valuable "bargaining chip" in dealings with captors of IDF soldiers in Lebanon.
Arens refrained from responding directly to the ABC report.
"We don't know to what extent the report is accurate," he said in a broadcast interview.
"The subject of our missing (soldiers) is a subject of such importance and such sensitivity that it doesn't pay to say anything that might damage the process."
The missing IDF soldiers include Zaharia Baumel, Zvika Feldman, and Yehuda Katz, all of whom disappeared during the first week of the Lebanon War in June, 1982.
Samir Assad, a Druze IDF soldier, was reported missing near Sidon in April, 1983, and is believed held by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Soldiers Rahamim Alsheikh and Yossi Fink were apparently abducted by Hizbullah in February, 1986.
The last to be captured was Ron Arad, an IAF navigator whose Phantom was shot down in October, 1986.
"If there is even a hint in the report that Iran is prepared to become involved in the process of freeing missing and captured soldiers, this may be a good sign."
The kidnapping of Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid by IDF commandos on July 29 1989 was denounced by the international community.
Washington was among those critics, suggesting that it could endanger the lives of foreign hostages held in Lebanon.
Obeid, then aged 36, was snatched from his home in Jibchit village, near Nabatiyeh township, some eight kilometers north of the security zone.
He was educated and trained in Iran and had taken over religious affairs in the village from Sheikh Ragheb Harb, assassinated in 1984.
IDF sources said at the time that Obeid had played a central role in planning attacks against IDF and SLA targets in the security zone, and in ordering Katyusha rocket attacks on Israel.
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