Thursday, June 26, 2008

IDF Reserves Commander Slams Gov't Treatment of Hostage Families

Hana Levi Julian

The commander of the reserve unit of kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev sharply criticized the government and the IDF on Wednesday for making their families "beg" for their loved ones' return.

The commander, identified only as "Dudu", said in an interview of Voice of Israel government radio that the soldiers who fell in battle during the Second Lebanon War, as well as the captives, paid the price for the government's abandonment of the northern border in the year 2000.Then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered a hasty withdrawal from Lebanon at the time, following continued attacks by Hizbullah terrorists against Israeli soldiers patrolling the security zone in the southern part of the country.

The terrorist organization spent the next six years developing and refining its infrastructure in southern Lebanon, building deep underground bunkers and stockpiling thousands of Katyusha rockets and other advanced weaponry.

By the time they initiated they initiated the July 12, 2006 cross-border attack in which they kidnapped Goldwasser and Regev, the terrorists were ready for the start of the Second Lebanon War.

Not so Israel, however. Six years of government budget cuts had taken their toll.

The commander of the reservists' unit revealed that vehicles on the Israeli front were without diesel fuel and in a state of disrepair. He also reported that there were communication failures that prevented officers from knowing where their soldiers were located at critical times.

Improvements Have Been Made
These and other issues were listed meticulously by investigative commissions charged with probing the failures of the war. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, appointed to replace Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz following his resignation after the war's end, has since implemented the lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War.

Hizbullah Newspaper Warns Price for Hostages to Rise
The Hizbullah-affiliated Al Akbar newspaper reported Wednesday that the terrorist group will raise its price for the return of Goldwasser and Regev if Israel does not soon agree to its current terms.

The present deal would include the release of Lebanese Druze terrorist Samir Kuntar, who is serving four consecutive life terms in an Israeli prison for the brutal murders of four Israeli civilians, including two toddlers, during an attack he led on Nahariyah in 1979.

According to the report, Hizbullah refused a request by German mediators to reveal the fate of the two captives. The editor of the newspaper also wrote that contrary to claims by the Israeli government, the proposed deal includes the release of hundreds of other Arab terrorists as well.

Until this point, Israel said Hizbullah was demanding Kuntar's release, along with four other live operatives and eight dead terrorists captured during the Second Lebanon War.

In an effort to blunt the terror group's ability to drive the price higher, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Ronsky earlier in the week to make a determination as to whether the two captives could be declared legally dead.

If they are classified as having been killed in action, the negotiating price for their return will be greatly reduced, according to military sources..

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