Footage of Gibril Deal soldiers aired

In special broadcast, Al-Jazeera shows Israelis in PLF captivity in Syria.

March 11, 2010 23:15
1 minute read.
Yossef Groff.

yossef groff 311. (photo credit: Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

A special broadcast aired Thursday by Al-Jazeera and picked up by both Channel 10 and Channel 2 showed file footage of IDF prisoners of war in Palestinian captivity in Syria.

The footage, recorded in 1983, featured interviews conducted with the prisoners by their captors during IDF Operation Peace for Galilee. In the interviews, the prisoners – identified as Yossef Groff and Nissim Salem – were asked in Hebrew to state their opinions about the massacre at the Palestinian refugee camp in Sabra and Shatila, along with other regional matters.

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“Whoever does such things to Hitler is a Nazi, Hitler. It doesn’t matter if he’s Jewish, he’s Hitler,” Salem said in the video. He also expressed opposition toward Israeli settlement activity and the notion of a “greater Israel.”

On Thursday evening, Salem told Channel 2 that his statement had been coerced. “They put me in rooms with all kinds of films … I told them, it wasn’t us [who carried out the Sabra and Shatila massacre], IDF soldiers would never do such a thing, not my friends,” he said. “You couldn't tell them (the Palestinians) the truth.”

Groff, meanwhile, was shown criticizing the reasoning behind the massacre. “The world will come to know the magnitude of the Sabra and Shatila massacre very soon, and because the PLO weapons weren’t there anymore [at the time of the attack], very soon people will start asking, why were so many killed?” he told his interviewer. “Tonight I will probably have many dreams, and it will be difficult.”

Salem and Groff were captured by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLF) in Lebanon in 1982, and returned to Israel in May 1985 along with captured IDF soldier Hezi Shai. They were released in exchange for 1,150 security prisoners – among them Hamas founding member Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Japanese terrorist Kozo Okamoto – in a deal known colloquially as the Gibril Deal, so named after PLF head Ahmed Gibril.

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