'We'll never give up.' Samir Kuntar
Photo: AP
Israeli sortie over Lebanon?
Photo: AP

Kuntar: We will free Shebaa, and beyond Shebaa

Freed terrorist vows to continue legacy of Hizbullah leader Imad Mughniyeh; Lebanese residents report Israeli sortie over South, threatening phone calls

The five Lebanese prisoners freed by Israel in the framework of the exchange deal with Hizbullah, including Samir Kuntar, took part in a military ceremony held at the burial site of Imad Mugniyah, a top commander of the Shiite group who was assassinated in Damascus a few months ago.


The five wore Hizbullah military uniforms and kissed Mugniyah's family members. The father of the slain commander congratulated Kuntar on his release. The terrorist, who was imprisoned in Israel for nearly 30 years after being convicted of killing four Israelis during a cross-border raid on Nahariya, said in response "we owe this victory to you and Imad.


"This morning I heard that the enemy has decided to assassinate me," Kuntar told the assembled crowd. "This enemy knows me well and I want to answer it with two sentences, like the Imam Hussein, may he rest in peace, said at the time: 'You threaten me with murder, when death is customary for us and a martyr's death is an honor from Allah?'


"We swear in the name of the almighty Allah and in the name of your pure blood that we will continue in this path and never give up until we reach the place that was given to you by God," Kuntar said, referring to what is dubbed by Islamic militants as a "martyr's death".


A member of the Druze minority sect, Kuntar and four Shiite Muslim guerrillas were freed in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah at the onset of the 2006 Second Lebanon War.


The exchange was mediated over the past 18 months by a UN-appointed German official.


Later in the day, hundreds of people welcomed Kantar in his hometown of Abey, a mountain hamlet 10 south of Beirut.


''This time yesterday I was in the hands of the enemy (Israelis). But at this moment, I am yearning more than before to confront them,'' Kuntar said, "and I ask Allah to make this happen soon." Hizbullah's weapons are ''a red line'' that no one should be allowed to cross, he told reporters.


"Believe me - anyone who thinks freeing the Shebaa farms or the (occupied) Lebanese lands will end this conflict is delusional."


Paraphrasing Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah's rhetoric during the war, Kuntar said: "We will not leave them alone and they will not leave us alone. Therefore, the objective of the resistance is the Shebaa farms, and what lies beyond the Shebaa farms. This must be clear."


Meanwhile, Hizbullah is pressing on with the process of identifying the bodies of the 199 Lebanese and Palestinian gunmen returned by Israel Wednesday.


Residents threatened?

Lebanese news agencies reported on Thursday that residents were receiving recorded phone messages from Israel promising ''harsh retaliation'' to any future Hizbullah attack. The automated messages also warn against allowing Hizbullah to form ''a state within a state'' in Lebanon.


The speaker ends the phone messages with the words: ''The State of Israel.''


Lebanon's official National News Agency said residents in south and eastern Lebanon as well as the

capital Beirut reporting receiving the calls. It said Telecommunications Minister Jibran Bassil contacted the United Nations to complain, calling it a ''flagrant aggression against Lebanese sovereignty.''


The Lebanese army also claimed on Thursday that Israeli aircraft had carried out several sorties over the country, including Beirut, on Wednesday afternoon.


The IDF said it does not detail its operational activities.


The Associated Press contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 07.17.08, 13:00
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