The Beirut celebrations organized in honor of released murderer Samir Kuntar are shameful and attest to the lowly moral standards of his supporters, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Whbee said Wednesday evening.
"The large celebration in honor of the despicable murderer Kuntar is a shame to the Lebanese people, whose leaders choose to celebrate the release of a man who prides himself on smashing the skull of four-year-old Einat Haran," he said.
"All the leaders who are celebrating Kuntar's release or are offering their congratulations to his family prove how lowly their moral standards are, and to what extent the politics of hatred robbed them of human compassion," Whbee added.
'We showed enemy we can't be defeated'
Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah emerged from his hiding place Wednesday evening in order to take part in a festive rally in Beirut celebrating the return to Lebanon of terrorist Samir Kuntar and four Hizbullah members captured by Israel during the Second Lebanon War.
This was Nasrallah's first public appearance since January.
The Hizbullah leader hugged Kuntar on stage and told thousands of his organization's supporters, "I would like to congratulate you on this victory. As we said in 2000, the period of defeats is over and the time for victories is here. This country and these people have presented a clear image to the world and to the enemy that we can't be defeated."
Samir Kuntar with his brother Bassam (Photo: Reuters)
Kuntar was the next person to address the crowd, thanking Nasrallah for "a promise kept".
"Thank God for giving me the ability to withstand all the difficulties of prison with my own will and nothing else. Thank God for giving this homeland the noble Islamic resistance. Thank God for helping us reach this day – the day of triumphs. We shall not return to the times of defeats.
"On this day and in this freedom, we mention the shahids (martyrs) who fell while facing the abusing enemy," Kuntar said to the sound of applause. "Today we remember all the shahids who fell in this homeland and in Palestine in order to protect it against this robbing entity.
"But allow me to mention the lord of the shahids, Abbas Musawi (former Hizbullah secretary-general assassinated by Israel). We would like to tell him that the resistance has become a power of quality which will never be defeated and is close to realizing the dream."
Kuntar also mentioned assassinated Hizbullah commander Imad Mugniyah, promising "to force the enemy to miss your times."
He later added, "today I returned from our precious Palestine, but believe me, God willing, I promise my family and my loved ones that we shall be back, I and my friends from the Islamic resistance. I did not return from prison but to return to Palestine."
Lebanon's president celebrates too
As part of the prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah, the bodies of kidnapped IDF soldier Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were returned to Israel, while Kuntar and his fellow prisoners were sent back to Lebanon along with some 200 bodies of Lebanese terrorists.
Earlier, Kuntar took part in an official ceremony attended by Lebanese President Mishel Suleiman, who said that "we hold our heads up high for the slain people returning to the homeland today and for the return of the prisoners, headed by Samir Kuntar.
"I would like to thank all those who contributed to the release and congratulate the resistance for this achievement," said Suleiman. "To Samir Kuntar and his friends I say that it's their right to be proud of their people, their country and their resistance. Your return is a new victory."
Following these live remarks, a pre-recorded speech by Nasrallah was aired on a large screen in the stadium.
"How did we reach this result? The main factor is our steadfast standing and the victory in the face of the aggression of July 2006, and the enemy's failure to achieve its goals," the Hizbullah leader said, mentioning assassinated organization commander Imad Mugniyah and those whose houses were destroyed and "who stood for 33 days without uttering a word of weakness or hesitation."
Nasrallah went on to elaborate on additional factors behind what he characterized as his victory, stressing the serious negotiations. "The war ended and the Israelis understood they can't return their soldiers but through negotiations…
"The enemy's security and intelligence disability not only prevented it from knowing where they are, but also what happened to them. If (the enemy) had succeeded, it would have hurt the negotiations. This was an important source of power.
"And thirdly, the enemy's fear that the negotiations would fail, and that the resistance would carry out a new kidnapping operation. They knew very well that we would keep our promises until Samir and his brothers return. This was clear in the Israelis' dialogues, as well as in the enemy's government where a crushing majority voted in favor of (the deal). Most of the Israelis also shared this opinion."
Another reason for the victory, according to Nasrallah, was "the steadfast standing Kuntar and the prisoners in jail."
The Hizbullah leader went on to stress "the unity of the way of resistance, whose movements, particularly in Palestine, complement each other." He added, "We insisted that the deal would include Palestinian prisoners in order to prove that we have one problem and fate."
Linking between his two latest achievements, Nasrallah said, "After the July 2006 war we had two goals – one was to release the prisoners and the second was the demand to form a unity government. Thank God, both of these were achieved today."
Roee Nahmias contributed to the story