Photo: Reuters
Lebanon waits for prisoners
Photo: Reuters
'Report on Ron Arad insufficient'

Hizbullah builds 'triumphal arch' on eve of prisoner exchange

Pictures of Samir Kuntar, Hassan Nasrallah and Imad Mugniyah adorn roads leading to Sidon; al-Manar television network celebrates 'divine victory'. Return of Israeli family's murderer to launch 'party of the decade' in Lebanon

The government is expected Tuesday to ratify Israel's prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah, which will commence at 9 am Wednesday.


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who returned from Paris on Monday night, announced before taking off that the report delivered by Hizbullah on the fate of missing Israel Defense Forces navigator Ron Arad was "insufficient". In the meantime, the preparations for the victory celebrations on the other side of the border are underway.


Hizbullah members set up a "triumphal arch" near the Rosh Hanikra (Naquora) crossing, where the exchange is scheduled to take place – Hizbullah fighters and terrorists' bodies in return for kidnapped IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.


The yellow arch, which bears the pictures of assassinated Hizbullah commander Imad Mugniyah, has been erected in several places in southern Lebanon.


Israel fears that after the deal is implemented, Hizbullah will attempt to carry out its promise to avenge the death of Mugniyah, who was responsible for a series of terror attacks in the region and worldwide.


But the Shiite organization will not settle for the arch. Hizbullah flags and victory photos have been hung along the Lebanese coastal highway connecting between Naquora and Sidon.


Lebanese media have reported that the celebrations will be held in three places – in Naquora, upon receiving the bodies of some 200 terrorists to be handed over by Israel; in Beirut's international airport, where five Lebanese prisoners – including terrorist Samir Kuntar – will arrive via helicopter; and in Beirut's Dahiya quarter, which will host a mass rally including a speech by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.


Nasrallah's 'Arc de Triumph' (Photo: AFP)


Hizbullah's leaders are counting the minutes until the deal is implemented and have already sent many of the group's members to southern Lebanon to work on the logistic preparations for the "popular" celebrations expected to be held in Lebanon.


Lebanon is expected to hold a state ceremony at the Beirut airport, which will be attended by heads of the government and senior politicians.


Hizbullah's al-Manar network has begun celebrating with militant, festive video clips, marking "the 33 days of victory" (referring to the Second Lebanon War). The clips feature Nasrallah's speech immediately after the two IDF soldiers were kidnapped, in which he declares that the two will be released in exchange for Kuntar and the other prisoners, and remarks made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the start of the war.


Through these clips, Hizbullah seeks to show that it won the war by keeping its word, as opposed to the Israeli side.


Al-Manar's website has also begun celebrating the deal. At the beginning of its reports on the preparations in Lebanon, the website reminds its readers that "in these very days in 2006, the 'resistance' crushed the arrogance and aggressiveness of the occupation, and these days it completes its victory and returns the brave prisoners to Lebanon."


Roni Sofer contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 07.15.08, 00:19
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