Hizbullah captive urges prisoner swap

Al-Arabiya TV airs interviews with Hizbullah guerillas detained by Israel.

hizbullah captives 298 (photo credit: IDF)
hizbullah captives 298
(photo credit: IDF)
An accused Hizbullah fighter detained in Israel said he would not be released unless there was a prisoner swap deal, according to an interview aired Wednesday by Al-Arabiya television station. "I am convinced that I will not get out of here unless there is prisoners swap operation," the man identified as Maher Korani told the pan-Arab station. "I hope that all the families in Lebanon will mobilize to push on the government and the UN and the entire world" for a swap. Al-Arabiya aired excerpts from interviews with Korani and other Lebanese detainees accused of fighting with Hizbullah during the group's summer war with Israel. In Wednesday's aired excerpts, three bearded young men wearing brown jumpsuits were shown sitting next to each other inside what Al-Arabiya said was an Israeli courthouse during a Dec. 10 hearing. An Israeli freelance journalist working for Al-Arabiya also conducted one-on-one interviews with five Lebanese detainees, including the three shown in the courtroom footage, at an Israeli detention center last month, Al-Arabiya news editor Nabil al-Khatib said. But Israeli censors only allowed two of the one-on-one interviews to be aired, he said. The men were captured by Israel during the first week of August and have been charged with "practicing hostile activities against Israel and being members of a terrorist organization," al-Khatib said. Al-Khatib said the men claimed they were fighting on Lebanese soil during the war when IDF troops captured them. The IDF referred questions about the detainees to the Prisons Authority, which was not immediately available for comment. A Hizbullah official in Lebanon refused to comment on the prisoners and would not say if the men were members of Hizbullah. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was authorized to speak to media. During other parts of the Al-Arabiya excerpts, another prisoner identified as Hussein Ali Sulaiman, of Beirut, said: "What is called the Israeli army attacked our country. We were defending it and took us from the heart of our country." On Tuesday, Maariv also published an interview with two of the same Lebanese prisoners. It alleged that the men came from Hizbullah's stronghold in southern Lebanon and said that they hoped to be exchanged with the two IDF soldiers held by the group. The two prisoners told the newspaper that they read Arabic newspapers inside the prison and kept updated on the status of the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers. "I thought I might die, or not return home from the war, but I never thought I would sit in an Israeli prison," Korani was quoted as saying in Maariv. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in October that "serious negotiations" were under way over the fate of the two IDF soldiers captured July 12 by his group. But the two remain in Hizbullah's custody. Their condition is unknown. Although the UN resolution that ended the 34-day war called for the soldiers' unconditional release, Israel has exchanged prisoners in the past. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross in Tel Aviv, Israel said agency representatives have not been allowed to visit the Lebanese detainees since September, when they saw them twice. "We received no rationale," said Sharon Yeheskel-Oron, a spokeswoman for the agency. "All we were told is that they cannot be visited." The Red Cross didn't know how many detainees were being held, and that Israel did not respond to the agency's repeated requests for a detailed list, she said.