Lebanon: Return of prisoners

As I write these words, Lebanon is giving five of its citizens/fighters a hero’s welcome. These resistance fighters have just been released from Israeli prisons. The release came as a result of a swap deal between Israel and Hezbollah/Lebanon. According to the terms of the deal, Israel will release Lebanese prisoners and hand over the remains of more than 100 fighters killed during decades of war between the two countries, while it gets information about a missing flight lieutenant and the two soldiers captured in July 2006 by Hezbollah.

It was declared today that the two soldiers were dead and their bodies have been turned over to Israel. Among the Lebanese who were released is Samir Kuntar. Kuntar was sentenced to more than 400 years in prison and has spent 29 years in Israeli jails. The released prisoners are now being welcomed by the Lebanese President, Parliament Speaker and the Prime Minister, among other dignitaries, at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut. The Lebanese president is giving his welcome speech. Today was declared as a national holiday to give every Lebanese a chance to partake in welcoming its heroes. Here are a few reactions from Lebanese blogs and more to come later, so stay tuned:

Anecdotes from a Banana Republic uses wit and humor to describe the day and goes on to say:

Kuntar has been imprisoned in Israel for 29 years, since the early age of 17. And how the world has changed in his absence! Kuntar has never sent a drunk text message to an ex-girlfriend or stalked anyone on MySpace on Facebook; he's never taken a stroll through the new downtown or eaten at Barbar (a mega- bistro that opened its doors during the Civil War.) Someone warn him that servis now costs a whopping 2,000LL. Thankfully many of the old, familiar faces from the 1970s are still in power; he'll only have to adapt to the likes of newcomers such as Saad Hariri.

Arab Democracy discusses Israel’s claim to moral superiority and being a hero for a day:

Whether Israel likes it or not, this UN brokered deal is the direct consequence of the July 2006 war. In a conventional war perspective, where the military operations end with a clear winner and loser, such a deal would have occurred sooner after the war. But Israel was not in a posture to admit defeat in August 2006, while Hezbollah showed much triumphalism describing as a “Divine Victory” his ability to resist the Israeli attack.
Israel needed time; it took over a year for the Winograd Report to be issued detailing the Israeli mistakes after a lengthy investigation. After admitting defeat, it is now time for Israel to pay the price.
Under a “humanitarian” cover, Israel is making a historic move. Giving back Samir Kuntar in exchange of two (maybe dead) soldiers captured on the 12th of July 2006 is a giant leap. The interesting debate about it in Israel is about fears that such a move might become a political and juridical precedent.

Bilad al Sham
describes the event as an ultimate victory for Hezbollah:

The poster on the Lebanese side of the border said it all: Israel sheds tears of sorrow, Lebanon sheds tears of joy.
The pictures from Naqoura were the ones Israelis had been dreading for two years since Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were seized by Hizbullah – an event that sparked off the summer war in southern Lebanon and northern Israel. Two simple black coffins were presented to the media.

On the Israeli side of the border the families and friends of the two burst into uncontrollable tears on witnessing the pictures relayed from the Hizbullah-controlled Al-Manar TV.
It is not all that Hizbullah controls in Lebanon today. Indeed, the handover of the bodies in exchange for five living Lebanese, including Samir Quntar, the man serving four life sentences for his role in a terror attack in Israel in 1979, is arguably the icing on the cake in two wonderful years for Hizbullah and its pro-Syrian allies.

It is hard to argue that Israel achieved either of its stated aims in the 2006 war – it failed to return Regev and Goldwasser and it did not weaken Hizbullah by pushing it to lines behind the Litani River.

Tantalus uses satire and humor to describe the events in a “rumor has it…” post.

Lebanese Political Journal
updates, describes and publishes opinions about the events in a series of posts.

Blacksmiths of Lebanon has photos of Samir Kuntar being captured in 1979 with comments from Israeli press, as well as another post in which he questions whether the price paid to release the prisoners was worth it:

Lebanon's prisoner in Israel is on his way back [while hundreds of Lebanese continue to languish in “brotherly/sisterly” prisons in Syria] and yet another pretext for Hizballah's weapons is gone.
Was it worth it?
Over 1,200 dead – 300 below the age of 13; over 4,400 wounded – 700 of them permanently disabled. Those figures alone provide a very clear answer [NO!], but don't forget to add to them the hundreds of thousands displaced and the billions of dollars of damages inflicted on the country.
No matter to Hizballah, they – and the Israelis with whom they negotiated (Olmert & Co.) – got the PR boost that they needed just when they needed. The Lebanese, and the Al Jazeera-viewing Arab public in general, should simply forget the militant group's recent history of turning its weapons on its fellow Lebanese and precipitating a sectarian rift rivaling that of country's 15 year civil war.

More opinions, coverage and analysis from the Lebanese blogosphere later, so check back.

Other GV Posts:
Israel: Intense Emotions Over the Hezbollah Prisoner Exchange


  • Tal

    Dear Mussa,

    Is Kuntar a hero? is somebody that did such acts can be a hero?

    from wikipedia: “Kuntar shot Danny at close range in the back, in front of his daughter, and drowned him in the sea to ensure he was dead. Next, he smashed the head of 4 year-old Einat on beach rocks and crushed her skull with the butt of his rifle.”

    What does it say on the Lebanese how declare him a hero?

  • Tal,
    maybe you should consider coming to Beirut and find out why instead of reading people’s accounts on Wiki.


  • Tal

    Hi Razan,

    I do not think that an Israeli, going to Beirut, is such a great idea these days. Maybe some day, when Nasralla will recognize in Israel right to live, I can come and visit Beirut. I sure love to have a vacation in this lovely city.

    But in the meanwhile, can you tell me why Kuntar is not a murderer of a young girl and her father? He may smash the girl’s head, or he may not, but she is sure dead… doesn’t she?

    All the best,

  • rasha reslan

    Samir al Kuntar is not just a hero but a real one,he conducted an operation in nahariya ,Occupied Palestine ,the aim was to bring israeli hostages in order to have a swap deal with the Israeli entity .there were hundreds of hundreds of Palestinian detainees in the israeli prisoners and those counts on resistence men like Samir al kuntar.
    the story of samir killing a 4 year old girl is of course an israeli scenario to violate his heroic image .on the other hand there is Samir’s story which says that the girl was killed by IDF fire .
    whatever the debate is ,it will not distort the fact that Samir is a hero ,for his Goal is sublime and his patience is great .In short ,he is a real master of freedom,dignity and Resistance.
    welcome back after 30 years of prisonment ,3ameed el Asraa Samir al Kuntar .

  • Anonymous

    Any truth to recent reports that Israel has been allegedly sending threatening mobile phone messages into Lebanon?

    If you’re in Lebanon, have you received such a message?

  • Tal

    Dear Rasha Reslan,

    Samir Kuntar may say that he did not kill the girl, but he sure kidnapped her and her father. Right?

    Samir is not the only Arab fighter (lets call them that, although their acts is usually the acts of terrorists), have killed many Israeli man women and children. In most of these cases they looked them in the eyes and killed them with cold blood.

    In the long history of fighting, Israeli soldiers had killed Palestinians civilians. But for most of the times, It was not delibrate. pepole were killed in the fighting zone without deliberate will to kill citizens. There were cases in which the IDF killed citizens, which were near militery target, although he knew they are there. But this action was heavily criticized in the Israeli society, and the IDF do try to avoid killing Palestinians citizens.

    But I think the the moral than your answer reflects, show little or no moral dignity. You call Kuntar a Hero, although you know he may killed in cold blood a girl and her father.

    If here in Israel we knew someone has killed in cold blood a girl, we would not think he was a hero, but rather the lowest kind of murderer.
    What does it say about the culture how make Kuntar a hero?

  • In the long history of fighting, Israeli soldiers had killed Palestinians civilians. But for most of the times, It was not delibrate.

    First of all, I disagree, but if even if it wasn’t deliberate, does that make it any less horrifying?

  • Tal

    Yes Jillian,

    Killing of every human being is horrifying. Even of soldiers :-(
    Killing of innocent citizens is even more horrifying and most regrettable, and we have to do everything in our power to stop it.

    But we must look at the over-all picture. Israel is in war and it is being attacked from populated places. Our opponents fire their rockets from inside a civilian population, to Israeli civilian population. Terrorists or Palestenians freedom fighters kill Israeli citizens deliberately and hide inside a Palestinians population.
    It doesn’t make a lot of choices for Israel, but to get them in the place where they are.

    This was the same in world war II. USA and Britian had bombard Germany and Japan. They were attacked, and their citizens terrorized (the British one), and the USA and Britain rightfully attack the Germans.But they did not gunned down civilians deliberately, as the Germans did! This make allot of difference. Right?

    Nevertheless, we all have to find better ways to solve this conflict.

    Very sorry for every life loss, may it be an Israeli or a Palestinian.


  • Thank you for your calm response, Tal, I understand your point of view a bit better now.

  • Tal

    Thanks Jillian :-)

    I hope one day, our generation will know how to bring peace and prosperity to this miserable planet.

    I think, the first and initial step, to bring it, is to hear others point of view and explain your point of view in love and in much respect to the other humenbeings.


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