hizbullah captives 298.
(photo credit: IDF)
Police announced the indictment of three Hizbullah men taken prisoner during this summer's conflict in Lebanon after a gag order on the case was lifted Monday morning. A fourth member of the Islamist organization has been questioned and released.
The indictments painted a picture of Hizbullah as a well-trained, well-equipped paramilitary organization whose members are trained in Iran and undergo weeks of exercises in Lebanon every year.
The three men, who were all captured in Lebanon in early August, were indicted Monday in the Nazareth District Court on charges that included murder, attempted murder, membership in a terrorist organization, connection with acts of terror and intent to harm Israelis.
All three Lebanese Shi'ites are long-time members of the terror organization.
The investigation by Military Intelligence and the Security and Economic Crimes squad of the police's Serious and International Crimes Unit offered a window into the preparations for the July 12 attack near Moshav Zar'it that set off the recent war.
One of the three, Beirut native Hussein Suleiman, 22, is accused of direct involvement in that attack, in which reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were captured and eight soldiers were killed.
Police said that Suleiman, who specializes in anti-tank attacks, began combat training with Hizbullah in 1998, at age 14. In 2001, according to investigators, he completed a 59-day course in the Lebanese city of Baalbek, in which he received certification as an anti-tank unit sector commander.
After receiving at least 243 days of training between 2000 and July 2002, he became a fulltime fighter in Hizbullah's Nasser Unit.
In 2003, he traveled to Damascus, where he and dozens of other Hizbullah gunmen boarded a plane for Teheran. There they participated in an 11-day anti-tank course. Suleiman returned a year later for a similar course, during which he acquired proficiency in at least five different types of anti-tank missiles.
In November 2005, according to the indictment, in advance of an attack on an IDF position in the Israeli border town of Ghajar, Suleiman received photos of the IDF post and participated in the assault. While three tanks were hit, no soldiers were wounded or captured.
The indictment describes Suleiman's preparations in advance of the assault on Zar'it in detail. As a sector commander, he prepared ambushes to block IDF troops from rescuing captured soldiers.
Suleiman did not attack IDF soldiers during the operation, according to the indictment, because none of them entered his sector. He fled shortly thereafter because of heavy IDF shelling. He was subsequently captured in another Lebanese border village.
A second suspect, Muhammad Sarour, 20, also receiving training in the use of anti-tank missiles and participated in several attempts by Suleiman to destroy armored IDF vehicles, according to police.
Police said Sarour joined Hizbullah in 2004 and, like Suleiman, flew from Damascus to Iran in 2005, where he received training near Tabriz.
The third suspect, Maher Benhassa Kourani, 30, purportedly was a member of Hizbullah's air defense unit. He allegedly joined Hizbullah in 1994, and worked for a charitable institution run by the organization until 1998.
Kourani received combat training in 1998 and a year later he traveled to Iran for three months of instruction. He returned to Iran for further training in both 2003 and 2004, during which, police said, he received advanced training in use of surface-to-air missiles.
He also received instruction in topography, air defense and the interpretation of aerial reconnaissance photographs. During the November assault on Ghajar, Kourani allegedly waited for IAF planes with a SAM-7 missile, but failed to identify a target.
When hostilities opened in July, Kourani was assigned to an anti-tank squad that lay in ambush for at least 10 days, pinned down by IDF artillery and IAF fire.
"Their investigation revealed a picture of systematic training of organization members in Lebanon, each in his own field of expertise," senior police officers said in a statement Monday.
It has been the state's policy for many years to try terrorists in civil courts when it has sufficient evidence. In the case of the three Hizbullah defendants, the state is certain it has that evidence.
When the state does not have enough evidence that can be submitted to the court and therefore made public - for example, for security reasons - the state can detain suspects under the 2002 Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law.
The state does not consider Hizbullah members as prisoners of war, with the rights that this status would entail, because they are members of an organization that was outlawed by Israel in 1989 under the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Israel could have tried the Hizbullah defendants in a military court in accordance with the 1945 Emergency Defense Regulations.
As a rule, however, the state has stopped trying terrorist suspects from Israel or Lebanon in military courts, only applying military law to terrorist suspects from the West Bank or to foreigners who operate from the West Bank.