Israeli Supreme Court Orders Release of Lebanese Detainees
The Israeli Supreme Court gave a final green light Wednesday to the release of 13 Lebanese held as bargaining chips for Israeli servicemen missing in action, rejecting an appeal by an airman's mother, a court official told AFP.
"The appeal was rejected and the Lebanese will be released today," the official who asked not to be identified said.
The 13 were waiting in a military base in the northern town of Kiryat Shmona for the court decision on the appeal by Batia Arad, mother of air force navigator Ron Arad, one of four Israeli servicemen missing in Lebanon.
The families of the detainees were, meanwhile, listening to pocket radios and picked wild flowers at a border crossing in southern Lebanon as they anxiously awaited their relatives' release.
"I have been waiting for 10 years. I waited since last week when they were due to be released and now they are making us wait again," said Fatima Ammar, sister of detainee Ahmad Mosen Ammar.
"My brother was sentenced to four years in jail in 1986, but for 10 years he was held unjustly," she told AFP.
The site was crammed with about 1,500 people awaiting the return home of the detainees, which was earlier held up by the last minute legal appeal.
Israel's supreme court began sitting at 9:00 a.m. (0600 GMT) to hear the appeal from Batia Arad, mother of air force navigator Ron Arad, one of four Israeli servicemen missing in Lebanon.
In Kfar Tebnit, the families kept their ears glued to small radios, following developments on Israeli media, which said the detainees had been escorted by the army to Metulla in the far north of Israel, where they would await the court's decision.
The families had been transported in five buses provided by Hizbollah, the main group fighting Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon.
The detainees had been freed earlier from Ayalon prison near Tel Aviv and taken to Haifa to be handed over to the military. They were accompanied by observers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The move had already been postponed twice because of attempts to block the release of the 13. It eventually went ahead after the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak decided not to oppose the supreme court's decision.
The two most important detainees, Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani were not released, and are expected to be reclassified as 'non-legal fighters' under a new law to be enacted by the government -- (AFP)
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