Hizbullah chief threatens to capture more Israelis in order to release Lebanese prisoners
Hizbullah will kidnap more Israelis to secure the release of Lebanese prisoners, if necessary, the movement's leader warned Thursday night.
Speaking at a mass rally to welcome 21 Lebanese prisoners freed by Israel hours earlier, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said his fighters could capture more Israelis to bargain for the freedom of Lebanese still held in Israeli prisons.
Turning to a huge poster of an ambush in which three Israeli soldiers were captured in October 2000, Nasrallah said: "This is a choice."
The Shiite leader conveyed that his group now after the deal is more determined to continue its resistance against Israel.
He stated it was "foolish" for the Israeli government not to have released Samir Kantar, the Lebanese citizen held the longest in Israel. "Because they didn't do that, I assure you that they will regret it in the future."
He noted that Hizbullah fighters were heavy-handed when they took the three Israeli soldiers dead. "I pledge to you that, next time, they will bring them alive," he said.
He spoke after the prisoner swap between Israel and Hizbullah was completed and after tens of thousands of Lebanese lined an airport road in Beirut to welcome home former prisoners, including Shiite cleric Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani.
Obeid was the first to disembark the plane. He walked steadily toward a group of government officials, including the President and Prime Minister. Dirani followed him.
Minutes earlier, an Israeli jet landed in Tel Aviv bringing home the Israeli citizen Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three soldiers killed on the Israeli-Lebanese border.
In Beirut, the massive crowd of supporters waved Lebanese, Palestinian and Hizbullah flags, loudspeakers blared national and Hizbullah songs and a brass band played.
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Cabinet ministers and Hizbullah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah were on hand at Beirut International Airport for the red carpet return.
In Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned Hizbullah against kidnapping, speaking at a memorial service for the slain soldiers. "Israel will not allow any enemy or terror group to turn kidnapping and ransom into a system. There are means we have not yet used. If, heaven forbid, the circumstances are changed, we will not hesitate to use them."
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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