Hizbullah Fighters Want PoW Status

Three Hizbullah fighters captured by Israel during last year's war on Lebanon are fighting in an Israeli court for legal protection as prisoners of war rather than "illegal combatants," used by the US to deny Gitmo detainees due process in US courts.

Hizbullah Fighters Want PoW Status
Three Hizbullah fighters captured by Israel during last year's war on Lebanon are fighting in an Israeli court for legal protection as prisoners of war rather than "illegal combatants," the classification used by the US to deny Guantanamo detainees due process in American courts.

"They are prisoners of war because they were combatants who took part in a war between two countries, Israel and Lebanon," Israeli defense lawyer Smadar Ben Nathan told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday, April 10, after a preliminary hearing at an Israeli court.

"Lebanon did not send its own troops to the south to protect it against the Israeli army but instead relied on Hizbullah. It thus represented the Lebanese armed forces," he maintained.

The three — Mohammed Adelhamid Srour, 20, Hussein Suleiman, 23, and Maher Hassan Kurani, 30 — were captured on August 4 in the villages of Aita al-Shaab and Shihine, two Lebanese border villages on the war's front lines.

Classifying them as "illegal combatants," Israel has charged the men with attempted murder for ambushing its soldiers as well as membership in a terrorist organization.

"The system has decided they should be tried as people who commit crimes against the state of Israel," Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen told AFP.

"They can not enjoy the privileges of prisoners of war because they don't abide by rules of engagement. They shoot from within civilian homes. You have to pay the price for what you did."

If the court considered them prisoners of war, the Hizbullah fighters would be sent back to Lebanon as soon as a prisoner exchange can be agreed.

The Israeli onslaught killed up to 1,300 Lebanese civilians, mostly children and women, and left the country's infrastructure in tatters.

At least 123 Israeli soldiers were killed and thousands wounded in fierce battles with well-trained Hizbullah fighters, who managed to shoot down at least four Apache helicopters and destroy one warship, a fast-speed patrol and around 124 of Israel's pride Merkava tanks, each costing 4.4 million dollars.

Same Treatment

The Israeli defense lawyers hope that wartime declarations by Israeli and Lebanese leaders will show that Israel entered into a conflict with another country, a war to which international law applies.

"On the day that the two Israeli soldiers were taken — last July 12 — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused Lebanon of an attack against the state of Israel," Srour's lawyer told the court hearing.

Another lawyer quoted Lebanese President Emile Lahoud as constantly repeating during the war that Hizbullah "belongs to the national resistance and is complementary to the army."

Hizbullah fighters liberated South Lebanon in 2000 after 18 years of struggle and resistance attacks against the Israeli occupation forces.

The group is largely recognized in Lebanon as a resistance group and its right to fight for the liberation of the Israeli occupied Shebaa Farms has been articulated in the program of the current government of Fouad Seniora.

The defense attorneys insist that Hizbullah fighters in Israeli captivity deserve the same treatment Israeli soldiers get in Lebanon.

"I don't think that anybody disputes the fact that the two Israeli soldiers are prisoners of war. This is why the government must give (Hizbullah fighters) this same status," contended Ben Nathan.

Earlier this week, Hizbullah offered the first sign that the two Israeli soldiers, whose capture was used by Israel as a pretext for what later turned to be a previously-planned war, are still alive.

Hizbullah political bureau member Mahmud Qamati said Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were receiving humane treatment.

Hizbullah is known for its smart prisoner-negotiating tactics and has refused to provide any information about the welfare of the soldiers without receiving something in exchange.

Hizbullah and Israel have in the past thrashed out prisoners exchange agreements.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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