CAMPAIGN TO RESCUE ABDUCTED ISRAELI SOLDIERS
On October 7, 2000, three Israeli soldiers were on routine patrol along the Lebanese border when Hizbullah terrorists ambushed them. It is believed that they were injured by a roadside bomb and then abducted by the terrorists who took them back to Lebanon. Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah boasted on Lebanese Television that his organization carried out the operation in solidarity with the Palestinian violence against Israel. He admitted that Hizbullah was holding the men, but he refused to show pictures of the men or even report on whether they were still alive. Requests for visits by the International Red Cross were also rejected.1
"We will not offer any free information," Nasrallah told reporters soon after the capture, "not today, after a week or in a month. Experience has taught us that information on a soldier, whether he is dead or alive, in good condition or not ... can't be for free."
The three soldiers are Sgt. Omer Suaed from the Galilee village of Salame near Karmiel, Sgt. Binyamin Avraham from Bnei Brak, and Sgt. Adi Avitan from Tiberias. Suaed is a Bedouin Arab; the other two are Jews. They were captured in an area known as Shaba Farms, or Har Dov, a region of the Golan Heights that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war.
Sgt. Binyamin Avraham
Sgt. Omer Suaed
Sgt. Adi Avitan
INTERNATIONAL LAW DEMANDS THEIR RETURN
Israel withdrew from all Lebanese territory in June 2000 in accordance with UN Resolution 425 that called for Israel's withdrawal as well as for Lebanon to establish effective authority over southern Lebanon with UNIFIL's assistance.2 To date, Lebanon refuses to deploy its security forces in the region and permits the Hizbullah militia almost total autonomy in the area. For many years Hizbullah used the area of southern Lebanon as staging areas for terrorist attacks against Israel, including katyusha rocket attacks against Israeli towns and villages.
On July 24, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council that Israel had met all of its withdrawal commitments. Lebanon and Hizbullah, however, claimed that the Shaba area was Lebanese, a charge refuted by Anan's report. The area is not Lebanese and will remain under Israeli jurisdiction until there is an agreement with Syria. In a statement released on October 7, Anan pointedly referred to the area as "the Shaba farms area of the Golan Heights."3
Despite Israel's brave decision to pull its troops out of southern Lebanon in July 2000, Hizbullah, Lebanon, and Syria, with 30,000 troops in Lebanon, threaten to plunge the Middle East into regional war over the Shaba area. The abduction of Sergeants Avraham, Avitan and Suaed may represent the first shot in that war. Their return to Israel, therefore, is an important step to restoring peace to the southern Lebanon-northern Israel-Golan area.
HIZBULLAH -- PARTY OF GOD -- OR TERRORISTS
Hizbullah ("The Party of God") was formed in the 1980s as part of the Khomeini revolution against the West. Its platform calls for the establishment of an Islamic republic in Lebanon, the eradication of Israel and a fight against Western (American) imperialism. Funded, armed and trained by Iran, Hizbullah and its constituent groups are believed to be responsible for terrorist attacks against American and French installations in Lebanon, the taking of American hostages, and bomb attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets in South America. Hizbullah is also aided by Syria, which occupies Lebanon and permits the flow of Iranian weapons to the terrorist organization via the Damascus airport.
In the course of years of combat with the Hizbullah terrorist group, Israel captured two of the organization's senior commanders. Sheikh Nasrallah told reporters that he wants to trade the three soldiers for Lebanese and Palestinian terrorists held by Israel.4 Nasrallah's track record is not very good, however. For several years Israel has offered to exchange the two in return for IDF pilot Ron Arad who was captured 14 years ago by Nasrallah's allies and remains unheard from. Nasrallah has not responded.
Will the world have to wait 14 years to learn the fate of Avitan, Binyamin and Suaed?
WHERE ARE THE OTHER POWS AND MIAS?
Somewhere in the Syrian-Lebanese-Hizbullah triangle lays the answer to the fate of four other soldiers missing in southern Lebanon. Katz, Feldman and Baumel have been missing since June 11, 1982. Pilot Ran Arad has been missing since October 16, 1986.
- Where are the POWs & MIAs?
- Who is holding them?
- Are they alive?
- Can the Red Cross see them?
- What is the international community doing to help?
- What are you doing to help?
- Who is holding them?
WHY PICK ON LEBANON?
Lebanon is the home to Hizbullah. Lebanon is obligated by international law to prohibit militias and paramilitary organizations that operate from within its boundaries against other countries. Particularly after Israel's withdrawal from the southern Lebanese security zone, Lebanon is obligated to restore order to the area.
While Syria effectively controls Lebanon, Lebanon nevertheless possesses its own national interest. Lebanon is the recipient of American economic assistance, military training and assistance, and international funding backed by the United States.5
According to the CIA's country assessment on Lebanon [World Factbook 2000]:
"Lebanon has made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions and regaining its national sovereignty since 1991 and the end of the devastating 16-year civil war. Under the Ta'if Accord - the blueprint for national reconciliation - the Lebanese have established a more equitable political system, particularly by giving Muslims a greater say in the political process while institutionalizing sectarian divisions in the government. Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have conducted several successful elections, most of the militias have been weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended central government authority over about two-thirds of the country. Hizbullah, the radical Shi'a party, retains its weapons."6 [Emphasis added.]
It is time for the Government of Lebanon to permit the International Red Cross to visit the three Israeli soldiers and to confirm if they are alive. Lebanon should be encouraged to work to obtain their release, expand Lebanese control across southern Lebanon, and curtail the illegal, terrorist activities of Hizbullah.
What Can Be Done?
- The holiday season is a family season. Demand that all the MIAs and POWs are released for Chanukah and returned to their families.
- Write your Congressmen and Senators. Encourage them to press Lebanon to allow the Red Cross to see the MIAs and POWs.
- Work with local Christian and civic groups to seek the release of the MIAs and POWs.
- Meet with Lebanese diplomats at the Lebanon Embassy and Consulates and give a message from the American people.
- Meet with U.S. MIA groups for expressions of solidarity.
- Host the families of the POWs and MIAs in your community.
- Bring their plights to the attention of your local newspapers, editors and television news producers.
- Plan special Shabbat services for the MIA and POWs at your synagogue, particularly on Chanukah, Parshat VaYeshev (December 23) when the story of "missing" Joseph is read from the Torah.
- Send mail to the MIAs and POWs care of the Embassy of Lebanon.
- Encourage international organizations such as the International Red Cross and world leaders such as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to intercede and seek the release of the MIAs and POWs.
- Visit these websites for more:
International Coalition for Missing Israeli Soldiers:
- The Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2000. (return to text)
- UN Resolution 425 - March 19, 1978
The Security Council,
Taking note of the letters of the Permanent Representative of Lebanon (S/12600 and S/12606) and the Permanent Representative of Israel (S/12607),
Having heard the statements of the Permanent Representatives of Lebanon and Israel,
Gravely concerned at the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East, and its consequences to the maintenance of international peace,
Convinced that the present situation impedes the achievement of a just peace in the Middle East, Calls for strict respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries;
Calls upon Israel immediately to cease its military action against Lebanese territorial integrity and withdraw forthwith its forces from all Lebanese territory;
Decides, in the light of the request of the Government of Lebanon, to establish immediately under its authority a United Nations interim force for southern Lebanon for the purpose of confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restoring international peace and security and assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area, the force to be composed of personnel drawn from States Members of the United Nations. Requests the Secretary -General to report to the Council within twenty-four hours on the implementation of this resolution. (return to text)
- UN Press Release SG/SM/7578, October 7, 2000, "Secretary-General, alarmed by Middle East violence, appeals for restraint." (return to text)
- Reuters, October 11, 2000, "Hizbullah links news of IDF kidnapped to prisoner release." (return to text)
- See for instance, Congressional bill H.R.4811, Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2001: "Of the funds appropriated under the headings 'Development Assistance' and 'Economic Support Fund', not less than $18,000,000 should be made available for Lebanon to be used, among other programs, for scholarships and direct support of the American educational institutions in Lebanon." (return to text)
- http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/le.html (return to text)