JERUSALEM (AP) – Two Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon since last summer are being treated “humanely,” a Hezbollah official told an Israeli Arab newspaper published Friday, in what the paper interpreted as the first hint that the two captives are alive.
Israelis have been hoping for a sign of life from the two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, since they were captured on July 12, 2006 in a cross-border raid that sparked last summer’s monthlong conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Hezbollah has not allowed the Red Cross to meet with the two and has offered no indication that they are still alive.
Mahmoud Komati, the deputy leader of Hezbollah’s political bureau, told the Nazareth-based As-Sennara newspaper that Islam requires that captives be given “humane treatment.” When the interviewer asked Komati if that meant the two Israeli soldiers were receiving such treatment, Komati said it did. “That’s how we’re treating the prisoners we’re holding now, because that’s in our religion,” Komati said.
Ehud Goldwasser’s wife, Karnit Goldwasser, said the comments proved nothing. “This is not a turning point, this is not a sign of life … A sign of life is when someone sees them, and a Red Cross representative must see them,» she told Israel Radio on Friday.
Also Friday, As-Sennara quoted anonymous Palestinian officials as saying that the family of a third abducted soldier, Gilad Shalit, had been allowed to send him eyeglasses through Egyptian mediators attempting to negotiate his release.
The Yediot Ahronot daily said Shalit’s father, Noam, sent the glasses two weeks ago. The father told the paper he had no idea whether the glasses had reached his son. “In the past we asked to send the glasses by means of the Red Cross. What does it give me if the glasses did or did not reach him. Has anybody seen him? Can anyone say anything about his condition? We don’t know anything.”
Like Hezbollah, the Hamas-linked gunmen holding Shalit are not known to have offered any concrete indication of Shalit’s condition since his capture in a June 2006 raid.
Hezbollah and the Palestinian militants holding Shalit hope for prisoner swap deals that will see the release of hundreds of Arab prisoners in return for the three Israelis. But ongoing covert negotiations have not produced results so far.