Prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah in doubt due to Israeli refusal to free Lebanese detainee
Hizbullah sources on Monday were quoted as saying in the Beirut-based A Nahar daily that a prisoner exchange deal with Israel, narrowly approved in a Sunday Israeli cabinet meeting, would not be carried out without the release of Samir al Kuntar, jailed in Israel since a 1979 attack in the northern Israeli town of Nahariyah, in which he killed three family members and an Israeli police officer.
Senior Israeli officials are adamant that al Kuntar will remain imprisoned in Israel. According to the A Nahar report, Hizbullah sees the Israeli refusal as a violation of its commitments. During the secret negiotiations in recent months, Israel promised to free all the Lebanese detainess, including al Kuntar.
Bassam Kuntar, the brother of Samir told Al Jazeera that Hizbullah chief, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, promised him the deal would not be executed without his brother's release.
"Nasrallah was very clear when he said there would be no exchange without Samir, and Nasrallah never reneges on his
promises," Bassam al Kuntar was quoted by Al Jazeera.
Nasrallah himself announced Saturday night that he would reject any prisoner swap deal with Israel that did not lead to the release of all Lebanese detainees, including Samir al Kuntar.
In Lebanon, Mohammed Safa, head of a prisoners' committee, accused Israel of trying to sabotage the deal by excluding al Kuntar.
Mohammed Fneish, a Hizbullah legislator, said the group would try to kidnap more Israelis if the deal breaks down. "If the pressure cards we have ... are not sufficient to convince the Israeli enemy's government to respect the freedom of our detainees ..., the Hizbullah command will definitely search for means to force the Israeli enemy's government to release our detainees," he told Al Manar TV.
Despite the Israeli decision to leave al Kuntar out of the deal, Hizbullah sources told A Nahar that the deal had not collapsed and another round of contacts between the sides, through the German mediator, would take place soon. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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