NASSIM NISR’S RELEASE PART OF PRISON SWAP – says Hezbollah

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Demonstrators in London in Ausgust 2006 condemn the Israeli attack on Lebanon
Demonstrators in London in Ausgust 2006 condemn the Israeli attack on Lebanon

The Lebanese detainee in Israeli jails for the past six years was released Sunday morning from the Nitzan (Ramle) Prison in Ramallah, in the framework of a swap deal between Hezbollah and Israel, reported Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV.

Hezbollah senior official, Hajj Wafiq Safa, announced that Hezbollah has handed the ICRC (International Red Cross) some body parts of Israeli soldiers who were killed in Lebanon during the 2006 aggression on Lebanon.

Safa refused to give further details ‘for the safety and secrecy of the ongoing swap negotiation.’

A senior Israeli official confirmed that the army had received a coffin but said tests had to be carried out on the contents to confirm whether the remains were those of Israeli soldiers.

‘A coffin apparently containing body parts of soldiers killed during the Second Lebanon War has been transferred by Hezbollah to the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) as a gesture for the ongoing negotiations on a prisoner exchange,’ the defence official said.

‘The coffin will be examined and the body parts will be examined to determine whether they indeed belong to Israeli soldiers.’

Meanwhile, Nassim Nisr arrived at the border in a white, unmarked jeep and was escorted by Israeli police to the crossing point before being driven into the no man’s land between the two countries.

The ICRC representative who escorted Nisr into Lebanon thanked Hezbollah ‘for the gesture the party made today’ adding that it was a very important move.

Escorted by ICRC personnel, Nisr arrived in south Lebanon through the Naqura crossing where he received a warm welcome from thousands of people who gathered under the burning sun of the coastal town of Naqura.

The mayor of Al-Bazoriyya in Lebanon, Baheej Al-Husaini, told Al-Manar TV, earlier on Sunday: ‘Our reception of Nisr will be spontaneous, and stemming from our good nature and loyalty to those who have always been loyal to their homeland and to the Lebanese resistance.

‘Our hearts and our homes are open to these resistance heroes. This is a victory for each and every Lebanese citizen.’

Hezbollah figures also attended the welcome ceremony.

Speaking to Al-Manar upon arrival, Nisr thanked everyone who contributed to his release.

On Monday, Lebanese officials reported progress in the UN-mediated negotiations, saying that the German mediator Gerhard Konrad had met with members of Hezbollah and that a breakthrough was near.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said during a visit to Beirut on Sunday: ‘I hope this is a step in the direction of a prisoner exchange.

‘I am happy that preliminary steps were taken in that direction and hope that this creates a positive dynamic, building mutual trust.’

He added: ‘Quick progress will be in the interest of the victims and concerned parties.’

However Israeli security authorities and the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office have said the handover is not connected to any future prisoner exchange, rather, was approved after it became evident that the decision to continue to hold Nisr indefinitely as a bargaining chip would not stand up to Supreme Court scrutiny.

Nisr was in a very good shape and very happy as he raised the flag of Hezbollah while saluting the crowds and the media people.

His meeting with his mother, family members and Bassam Kintar, the brother of detainee Samir Kintar, was very sentimental. 

                                                                      

Hezbollah official in south Lebanon Sheikh Nabil Kawouk pledged that Lebanon will remain the Lebanon of resistance and victory ‘until the ultimate victory.’

Sheikh Kawouk said: ‘The sincere promise of his eminence Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has been fulfilled.

‘Despite all the problems in Lebanon, Hezbollah has never abandoned the cause of the detainees because it is in fact the biggest deposit. . .

‘There is no complete freedom, no complete sovereignty and no complete dignity as long as there is one detainee in Israeli jails.

‘The detainees are the precise criterion that determine the Arab nature of this Umma.

‘The way to liberate them is the way of the resistance.

‘As we speak today, we look forward to the very near future when our remaining detainees return home.

‘It will be a great victory for Lebanon and the Arab nation when Samir Kintar and his companions return.

‘Hezbollah and the resistance community announce our love and consolidation with our Palestinian brothers in Israeli jails.

‘On this day also, we remember his eminence Imam Mussa Sadr.’

Nassim Nisr took the stand after Hezbollah’s official in the south and greeted all of Lebanon and in particular Sayyed Nasrallah and Hezbollah.

‘It will not be long before the Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails return home,’ Nisr said.

Born in 1968 to a Lebanese Muslim father and an Israeli Jewish mother who converted to Islam, Nisr left Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of 1982 and joined his mother’s family in Israel, where he settled near Tel Aviv.

He held Israeli citizenship at the time of his arrest in 2002.

He was sentenced to six years in prison in 2002 after he was convicted of providing information to Hezbollah.

His prison term has recently ended, but the Israeli security establishment considered holding onto him as a bargaining chip in the indirect negotiations between Israel and Hezbollah – and he has been held under administrative arrest at the Nitzan Detention Center.

Last week, Nisr’s attorney Smadar Ben-Natan said that ‘the timing of the release is not coincidental.

‘Israel could have transferred him to Lebanon a few weeks ago, but the procedure has been delayed in order to be perceived as an Israeli gesture.’

Nisr’s family in Lebanon last week said he had called them to inform them of his imminent release.

Nisr’s brother Mohammed said Nessim had told him in a phone call a month ago that ‘his jailers had placed him in solitary confinement in a bid to persuade him to abandon his plans to return to Lebanon with his two daughters, who are Israeli citizens.’

Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that as Nisr arrived home in Lebanon, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began to hope that a prisoner exchange deal might be imminent.

There are currently more than 11,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody.

Representatives of the prisoners expressed their hope that agreement on a prisoner exchange would be reached in the shortest possible time, and that those serving long-term sentences of more than twenty or thirty years would be included in the deal.

The issue of Palestinian prisoners remains one of the most important issues for Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian resistance factions, and Palestinian society in general.

Abbas has endeavoured to get the prisoners released through negotiations with Israel, while resistance factions have sought to force a prisoner exchange by capturing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Palestinian prisoners’ families also expressed their hopes that Hezbollah will insist on including Palestinian prisoners in a potential prisoners’ swap with Israel.

This hope stems from Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s speech at the beginning of the second Palestinian Intifada when he stated: ‘Your children are our children and your sons are our sons.’

Nisr’s release is expected to pave the way for the release of Lebanese prisoner Samir Al-Qintar, who has served the longest term of the remaining Arab prisoners held in Israeli custody.

Three other Lebanese detainees who were captured during the war against Israel in summer 2006 are also expected to be freed, and Israel is expected to turn over the bodies of ten Lebanese resistance fighters.

In return, Hezbollah would release the two Israeli soldiers it captured in 2006.