Search must go on for dead prisoners in Israel - Hezbollah leader

Israel Materials 29 January 2009 21:43 (UTC +04:00)

The head of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement on Thursday urged Lebanon to not give up efforts to find the remains of Lebanese and Arab prisoners he said are still being held in Israel.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said during a press conference in which he spoke to reporters via a large television screen in Beirut's southern suburbs that "there are still the remains of 350 Arab and Lebanese martyrs' in Israel."

Israel claims it has long since returned all Lebanese prisoners and remains of prisoners. But Hezbollah disagrees. Nasrallah cited one prisoner, Yehya Skaff, whose fate has been particularly disputed, dpa reports.

"We cannot conclude this issue. I can say that the body of Yehya Skaff has not been returned," said Nasrallah.

Nasrallah also paid tribute to more than 11,000 Palestinian, Jordanian and Syrian detainees who are still inside Israeli jails.

"This cause should remain in the conscience of this nation and push it to assume its responsibilities regard this cause as a national one at one side and humanitarian and ethical at the other," Nasrallah said.

Another issue he touched upon was the fate of four Iranian diplomats who went missing in Lebanon in 1982 and were believed to he held in Israel.

At the time, the Christian-dominated Lebanese Forces, were held responsible for kidnapping the diplomats. Nasrallah said the Lebanese Forces need to help establish the truth about the diplomats' fates.

The current head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, has said the four were kidnapped in northern Lebanon and went missing since then. Geagea has denied he had any news about their current fate.

Nasrallah's comments came on "Freedom Day," which commemorates the mass release of Lebanese and Arab detainees from Israeli jails on January 29, 2004. That operation was mediated by Germany.

Nasrallah also repeated his assertions that Israel was responsible for the death of Haj Radwan, better known as Imad Mughaniyeh, Hezbollah's military commander. He was killed in February 2008.

Hezbollah has never said if it plans retaliate. But Nasrallah's comments come shortly after news reports that a major attack against an Israeli target in Europe was thwarted in recent weeks. The foiled attack has been linked to Hezbollah.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered Israeli security services last week to raise their level of alertness out of fear that Hezbollah would increase its efforts to launch an attack against an Israeli or Jewish target abroad ahead of the first anniversary of Mughaniyeh's assassination which is on February 12.

The Jewish state has denied the charge.