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(photo credit: Channel 10)
The two IDF reservists - Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser - kidnapped on July 12 by Hizbullah guerrillas suffered serious-to-critical wounds during the attack that sparked the month-long war, military officials said Wednesday, raising the possibility that the men were no longer alive.
According to an internal IDF Medical Corps investigation of the attack, one of the soldiers - it was unclear whether it was Regev or Goldwasser - was in critical condition following the attack. The other soldier was seriously wounded. The IDF Censor had until Wednesday prevented publication of the report's findings.
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Despite these findings, which the IDF Spokesman's Office refused to confirm, the army stood by its assumption that the two men are still alive. "The IDF's working assumption was and remains that the kidnapped soldiers are alive," the IDF said in a statement, "and we work according to that premise."
Meanwhile, Amnesty International secretary-general Irene Khan told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday night that Hizbullah members have not indicated that the two IDF soldiers were dead.
She based her information on a meeting she had in Lebanon on Tuesday with former Hizbullah minister Muhammad Fneish, who resigned last month from the Lebanese government, as well as talks she had with other Hizbullah members during her three-day visit there.
"We did not get any indication from them that the two men were not alive," she said.
Khan raised the issue of the continued captivity of Goldwasser and Regev and asked that Hizbullah allow the Red Cross to see the two men, something Hizbullah has refused to permit until now.
"They acknowledged that under international law there is an obligation for them to give access, but they said they would not do it, because they wanted to put pressure on Israel to release prisoners," she said.
Amnesty, which is the largest non-governmental international human rights organization, would typically not have access to hostages. But Khan said, it does have a role to play in advocating for access to the two men.
Khan arrived in Israel on Tuesday night for her second visit to this country since taking office in 2001. She also visited the region in 2002. She said she told Hizbullah that their refusal to allow the Red Cross to see Goldwasser and Regev was "unacceptable to us."
"The whole principle of international humanitarian is that it is not reciprocal. So regardless of whatever Israel does or does not do, there is an obligation for Hizbullah to respect humanitarian law, just as there is an obligation on the other side."
The IDF Medical Corps report on the two soldiers was compiled by the IDF's Chief Medical Officer Brig.-Gen. Hezi Levy, and included an analysis by forensics and armor experts of blood stains and the damage to armored Hummer patrol vehicles.
The IDF presented the report to Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and regularly updated the families of the kidnapped soldiers.
Hizbullah has refused to release any details on the condition of Regev and Goldwasser or provide any signs that they are still alive.
Earlier Wednesday, Peretz said that all the information Israel had on the condition of the abducted soldiers would be handed over to their families. "The information must remain confidential," he said, adding, "Negotiations are not conducted in the media."
Peretz's comments came a day after European Union Ambassador to Israel Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal told The Jerusalem Post that Israel lacked proof the two soldiers were still alive. Cibrian-Uzal said Israel knew more about the fate of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas kidnapped on the Gaza border on June 25, than it did about Ehud and Regev.
"My understanding is that Israel has received proof that Shalit is alive and in reasonably good condition. On the basis of this proof, Israel is negotiating the release of Gilad Shalit," Cibrian-Uzal said. "No similar proof has been received with respect to the other two abducted soldiers in Lebanon and therefore there are no negotiations for their eventual release."