‘LEBANESE PRISONERS HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE FREE’ – says Hezbollah

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Demonstrators in London on July 22nd last year condemn the Israeli assault on Lebanon
Demonstrators in London on July 22nd last year condemn the Israeli assault on Lebanon

SHEIKH Na’im Qasim, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General, told a Beirut rally marking the ‘29th anniversary of the arrest of Samir al-Qintar’ in Israel and ‘in support of prisoners and detainees in Zionist prisons’.

Qasim began by greeting the prisoners in Israeli jails. He addressed them by saying: ‘We are aware that you are free men behind bars, raising your heads with pride for the sake of the homeland, freedom, dignity, and man.’

He told the prisoners: ‘You will be with us, God willing. It is a matter of time, which must pass, until the cowards fall, and you will emerge as heroes from your prisons.

‘We are confident that Almighty God who supported his men in Lebanon and Palestine will support you, and that you will leave prison.’

He said the ‘Islamic resistance’ carried out a ‘daring operation’ to capture Israelis for an exchange of prisoners, because ‘the Lebanese prisoners have the right to be free and to be among their families.’

He argued the move was carried out ‘because nobody heeded our humanitarian appeals. . .

‘Therefore, we in Hezbollah, were convinced that the only option left to us was to capture Israelis and therefore the heroic operation on 12 July was carried out.’

He said the world asked us to release them but we appealed to the world to compel Israel to release our prisoners in exchange for Israeli prisoners but ‘in its statement, the UN Security Council was prejudiced, making a distinction between our prisoners and their prisoners.’

He said that they claimed that there would be ‘efforts to release our prisoners but they insisted that we release the Israeli prisoners,’ adding that Hezbollah insisted on a prisoners exchange.

Qasim said: ‘Negotiations now are being held through a UN Security Council mediator, who has been appointed by the former UN secretary general.

‘His movements are kept secret and his name has not been directly revealed. Today we are holding continual contacts and negotiations.

‘These are serious negotiations and any results will be announced later because we had agreed not to announce the details and substance of the negotiations to ensure their success and to avoid any media or political blackmail, and so that these negotiations might not be exploited at the expense of the prisoners.

‘Therefore, we are in a state of negotiations and we hope that matters will be finalised in a better and quicker way but we will not talk to the media about the details that we have reached.

‘I can only say that there can be no solution except through a full release of prisoners. We are committed to this no matter what this will require in terms of patience, forbearance, and sacrifices, and we are certain that the Israelis will eventually submit.

‘We have learned not to submit in the battlefield because we are in the right and because the land is ours, and we have seen the enemy submit when it encountered our firmness and forbearance. It will have to release these prisoners against its will, even though this will take time, God willing.’

In allusion to Hezbollah’s allies, Qasim thanked those present, ‘especially from Mount Lebanon’ who have always ‘identified’ with the people of the southern Beirut suburb.

Speaking on the July war, Qasim says that the Israeli ‘aggression’ against Lebanon ‘was a result of a US-Israeli decision, which had been very carefully wrought to wipe out the resistance. It was not an aggression in retaliation for the capture of the Israelis.’

He said the capture was a ‘pretext’ and ‘had the capture not taken place, they would have invented another pretext to carry out this operation,’ reminding the audience ‘of the pretext of the attack on the Israeli ambassador in London which caused the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.’

Qasim criticised those Lebanese who blamed Hezbollah for the Israeli aggression, noting that ‘we remained patient’ and prevented Israel from carrying out its plans. He said: ‘The ones who defied Israel would not care a damn about those who were looking for a few morsels that might be left after Israel had eaten its meal and, God be praised, it choked and could not eat its meal.’

He says they had expected that ‘the resistance would lose the battle and the opposition would fall and they discovered that the resistance became stronger after the war.’

He said: ‘Israel conceded defeat and we declared victory but they did not recognise our victory. That was not a problem. The important thing was that the enemy admitted that it had been defeated, that it admitted that resistance, honour, and dignity in Lebanon triumphed over Israel.

‘It is not our problem if some could not tolerate our victory and its repercussions because they have been accustomed to defeat. It is not our problem that some were appalled by the victory of the resistance and the people of the resistance, and feared the resistance instead of entering into a partnership.

‘It is not our problem that some have not accepted the genuine sovereignty of a proud Lebanon but wanted a fake sovereignty with the rubber stamp of the UN Security Council instead of the Lebanese constitutional institutions.

‘Let them know that we want a victory for the Lebanese sovereignty as we triumphed over the occupation and aggression, and will not agree to allow the UN Security Council to forge the will of the Lebanese. As long as we have this resisting opposition and proud people, we will not fear anyone.

‘Then Resolution 1701 was issued and they believed that we needed two, three, or four months to allow the people to return to their towns.’

He argued that the people returned to their towns immediately after the cease-fire and did ‘not want any favour from them’ to enable them to go back to their homes.’

He added: ‘They wanted to say: Hezbollah drove you out of the south and the United Nations, UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon), the international forces and others returned you to your homes.

‘However, our proud people did not wait for anyone to return them. They left out of their own free will as part of the resistance and they returned out of their own free will as part of the resistance.’

He continued: ‘David Welch spoke to Mr Nabih Birri and told him that it would take from three to six months for the people to return to the south.’ He says: ‘Since 14 August 2006, the resistance has not committed any violations in any form, so much so that the UNIFIL spokesman said – sometimes in provocative interviews – that he did not see any armed men, a movement of armed men, or a transfer of arms south of the Litani River, and that the implementation of the resolution by Hezbollah was full.

‘But Israel could not tolerate this. It had wanted us not to demonstrate discipline so it would have a pretext for aggression.’ He notes that Israel violated the Blue Line several times.

Qasim said Israel continued its violations, ‘espionage attempts,’ and overflights ‘but the UN Security Council never objected’ and ‘those who uphold Lebanese independence’ never objected to these ‘Israeli overflights.’

He said there is no evidence at all that Hezbollah is carrying out any activities in contravention of the UN resolution ‘as Israel and the United States claimed’ in cooperation ‘with the Lebanese orchestra, which is in harmony with these claims.’ He said Israel has been violating Lebanese airspace but the international community has been biased in its favour.

Qasim asks the pro-government groups not to ‘adopt Israeli and US slogans’ but to use slogans ‘that are in harmony with their political differences with us.’ He adds: ‘We do not want to accuse them of this and we do not want them to be within this category.’ He sites some Israeli ‘slogans’ and compares them with the Lebanese government slogans. He says the Israeli slogans are:

‘1. We want the resistance disarmed.

‘2. We back the illegitimate Lebanese government team in confronting the opposition.

‘3. We do not accept partnership or unity in Lebanon, and the other side must be wiped out.

‘4. We believe in confrontation with Syria.

‘5. We want to settle the Palestinians in Lebanon.

‘6. We want Lebanon to remain weak.

Addressing his audience, Qasim says: ‘We are in a strong position, so leave them to shout and yell. By God, nothing will benefit them, neither the United Nations, nor the UN Security Council, nor the bravadoes of some criminals.’ He says the opposition will be able to realise its aims.

‘Qasim concludes by telling the prisoners: We will not abandon you, and God willing, you will be transferred from your arena of jihad there to your arena of jihad in Lebanon.’