The Israeli Justice Ministry has put the finishing touches on a bill that would legalize Israel's continued detention of top Hizbollah leaders Mustafa Dirani and Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid, who have been held for years as "bargaining chips" for the release of missing airman Ron Arad and soldiers from the Sultan Yakub battle during the Lebanon War, reported Haaretz.
In October, Hizbollah also took three soldiers prisoner from the Israeli-occupied Shabba farms. Later in the month, an Israeli reserve colonel was detained in Lebanon while on an intelligence mission assigned by the Mossad, Hizbollah said.
The bill, which in its original version was rejected by the Knesset's legal adviser and human rights groups, was changed by the ministry and now goes to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to prepare it for second and third readings by the plenum, said the Israeli daily.
The new version of the bill is "softer" than the previous version. The most significant change says that it is legal to hold "an illegal fighter" - meaning anyone participating in hostile activities against Israel who is not eligible for prisoner of war status according to international law -"as long as the organization has not ended its hostile activities against Israel."
The changes allude to members of organizations like Hizbollah or Hamas, which are labeled by the US and Israel as “terrorist” groups.
The previous version of the law simply stated that it was enough for an "illegal fighter" to belong to a hostile organization to justify detention.
Both men have been held for more than a decade being kidnapped separately by Israeli commando units in the hope that Hizbollah would reveal information about the whereabouts of Ron Arad and other Israeli soldiers missing in Lebanon.
German and other parties’ mediation between Hizbollah and Israel over the latest captured Israelis are underway, but no progress has been seen.
Hizbollah says there are 17 Lebanese detained in Israeli jails, in addition to more than 1,600 Palestinian and Arab prisoners. It denies any knowledge of Arad’s fate – Albawaba.com
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