Photo: Reuters
IDF attacks following kidnapping of soldiers
Photo: Reuters

Israel asks for German help in freeing hostages

Foreign Ministry: Now is the time when German officials who play constructive role can be active

Israel on Thursday welcomed any help that Germany could give in trying to free two Israeli soldiers captured by Lebanese Hizbullah guerrillas, but emphasised it would not discuss a prisoner swap.


The abduction of the soldiers on July 12 triggered an Israeli offensive in Lebanon that has killed over 300 people. Hizbullah is seeking an exchange of prisoners similar to one it made with German mediation in 2004.


Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor told Germany's ZDF television: "German officials have previously played a constructive role in the freeing of hostages, in some case where soldiers were abducted. Now is the time when the same German officials could be active again."


In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was seeking information on the health of the captives from any government as a humanitarian act that would be appreciated by the families of the hostages.


No prisoner swaps


"Our stated position is clear, there is no talk of a prisoner swap," Regev said.


German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the head of Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency Ernst Uhrlau were both involved in a 2004 hostage exchange with Hizbollah, albeit in different roles under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.


In October 2000, Hizbullah killed three Israeli soldiers on the border, taking their bodies as well as abducting an Israeli man who was on a business trip.


German intelligence officials eventually became involved, pulling off a swap in January 2004. Some 420 Arab prisoners were exchanged for the three bodies and the businessman.


Germany's foreign ministry has declined to comment on whether it would be willing to mediate as it has before. It and other EU countries have been in contact with leaders and senior officials in the Middle East to try to help resolve the crisis.


Israel has been attacking Hizbullah positions in Lebanon for over a week and has said it would only halt its attack once the the hostages were returned and the shelling of Israeli towns by Hizbollah guerrillas ceased.


פרסום ראשון: 07.20.06, 17:04
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