Kidnapped IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are receiving the same treatment as that given Elhanan Tannenbaum, a Hizbullah leader told the Nazareth-based newspaper A-Sinara in an interview to be published Friday. "We are treating the prisoners as the prisoners whom we released in the past have described, and as our religion directs us to treat prisoners of war," said Muhammad Kamati, a leader of Hizbullah's political wing.
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He said that enemy soldiers who were captured got humane treatment that allowed them to live in a normal manner. Asked if the two prisoners were being treated like Tannenbaum, Kamati said, "Yes, we are treating them humanely." He dismissed as "ridiculous" reports that they were being mistreated, or being fed inedible food, "as Israel does to our prisoners."
A-Sinara Deputy Editor Hussein Sweiti, who conducted the interview, said he brought up Tannenbaum as an example because he was returned to Israel alive. Tannenbaum was held by Hizbullah from 2000 to 2004.
Sweiti said that this was the first sign given by a Hizbullah leader indicating that Goldwasser and Regev were alive. But Goldwasser's wife Karnit said that this constituted neither a sign of life nor a "turning point" in the efforts to win their release.
In a Channel 2 interview, Goldwasser said a number of people have already said that the two were alive. "We want to see them alive," she said. "A sign of life is if someone sees them, and a Red Cross representative needs to see them. Until now, no one has seen them, including the Red Cross."
According to an IDF report released in December, both men were believed to have been seriously wounded when they were kidnapped last July.
Ehud Goldwasser's father, Shlomo, said that Israel must learn from Britain and talk directly to Hizbullah, just like Britain talked to the Iranians. "I know that when people want to do a deal they talk directly to one another," Goldwasser told reporters in Tel Aviv, where he was joined by 150 participants in a cross-country solidarity march for the three kidnapped IDF soldiers.
"I don't care that legally Hizbullah is defined as a terror organization, " added Goldwasser. "It is (still) possible to talk to Hizbullah in order to secure our children's safe return home."
In a related development, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem dismissed as absurd a report Thursday in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that Syrian President Bashar Assad promised US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that he would help bring about an agreement between Israel, Hizbullah and Hamas regarding the release of the kidnapped IDF soldiers.
According to the report, Assad told Pelosi, who visited Syria on Wednesday, that Damascus "will invest all its efforts" to prompt Hizbullah and Hamas to finalize agreements with Israel to release Goldwasser, Regev and Gilad Schalit.
The diplomatic sources said this was "ridiculous," and also expressed frustration with Pelosi. According to the officials, Pelosi's claims of bringing messages and playing the role of mediator between Israel and Syria had to do with "internal American politics." Pelosi and US President George W. Bush are staunch political opponents.
Pelosi met with the families of the kidnapped soldiers during her visit to Israel earlier this week and said she would do everything she could to ensure their return.
On Wednesday, after meeting with Assad in Damascus, Pelosi said she brought a message from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about a willingness to engage in peace talks with Damascus. This was quickly denied by the Prime Minister's Office.