Hezballah claims capture of high ranking Israeli military officer

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Lebanon: Hezballah claims capture of Israeli military officer Sunday, 15 October 2000 3:19 (ET)

Hezballah claims capture of Israeli military officer By DALAL SAOUD

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 15 (UPI) - A prominent Hezballah leader announced Sunday his group has captured a high-level Israeli military officer with the rank of "bridadier," as the result of what he called a "complicated" security operation. He said details would be disclosed later. -- Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), October 15, 2000



-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), October 15, 2000.

Hezbollah Claims Capture of High-Ranking Israeli Soldier By Sam F. Ghattas Associated Press Writer

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Hezbollah guerrillas claimed Sunday to have captured an Israeli army colonel, threatening to raise tensions in an already volatile region. Israel said it was unaware of any soldier missing.

The Iranian-backed group's own television station and Lebanese TV showed Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah making the announcement at a meeting of Islamic leaders, who rose to applaud after he said: "In a new qualitative achievement and in a complicated security operation, the Islamic resistance was able to take prisoner an Israeli army officer with the rank of the colonel who works with one of the Israeli security agencies."

He said details will be announced later, "at the appropriate time."

The reference to a "complicated security operation" rather than a military operation was a strong indication that the man was taken in an intelligence sting, instead of captured in a gunbattle like three Israeli soldiers eight days ago in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah's claim could not be immediately confirmed by Lebanese security officials.

But Lebanese sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the information they had was that Hezbollah captured an Israeli Arab working for Israeli intelligence who had been seeking contact with the Lebanese to get information about the three captured Israeli soldiers. The circumstances of his capture were not yet clear.

In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office said Barak brought up the report in a Cabinet meeting this morning.

"Israel doesn't know anything at this point about an officer who is allegedly in Hezbollah hands but the investigation is ongoing," Barak told the ministers, according to his office.

The Israeli army was going house to house in communities along the border, checking the whereabouts of every reserve soldier who lives there. The army also was patrolling along the border, looking for any signs that a soldier was missing.

Last week, Hezbollah captured three Israeli soldiers along Lebanon's volatile border with Israel and said it wanted to swap them for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Arab prisoners held in Israel. The United Nations has attempted to mediate in that capture, so far without success.

Last week's Hezbollah strike, observers say, inspired Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the face of what is widely seen in the Arab world as Israel's excessive use of force in two weeks of deadly clashes.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders were to meet Monday to try to end the fighting.

Israel holds 15 Lebanese prisoners, including guerrilla leaders.

Palestinians have asked Hezbollah to include about 1,600 Palestinian prisoners in any swap. And Iran, Hezbollah's chief backer, said four of its nationals believed held by Israel since 1982 should be freed as part of a prisoner swap for the Israelis. http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAN2WZJCEC.html

-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), October 15, 2000.


The family of a man named Tanenbaum reported his absence a week ago. Apparently, he is a Mossad Agent based in Switzerland. This may be the one now announced as "captured."

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), October 15, 2000.

Jer usalem Post

Monday, October 16 2000 01:52 17 Tishri 5761

PM warns of response to Hizbullah kidnap By Arieh O'Sullivan and David Rudge

JERUSALEM (October 16) - Prime Minister Ehud Barak blasted Hizbullah yesterday for abducting an innocent Israeli businessman abroad in a "Mafia-like" action.

"Israel will know how to respond, to identify who is behind this, and to take care of this later," he said.

Hizbullah claimed yesterday to have kidnapped "an Israeli colonel," identified as Elhanan Tannenbaum, 56, in a "complex security operation." His abduction brought to four the number of Israelis held by Hizbullah following the kidnapping of three soldiers on Mount Dov on October 7.

Hizbullah claimed Tannenbaum is a colonel in "the Israeli security apparatus." Israeli security sources confirmed that Tannenbaum is a colonel in the reserves.

Barak denied Tannenbaum was working for the state, calling his abduction "a terrorist act."

"He is a private Israeli citizen, a businessman who has no link whatsoever to the security establishment beside the fact that he is an officer in the reserves like many thousands of citizens," Barak said at yesterday's cabinet meeting. "[He] was apparently lured to someplace in Europe or elsewhere and was abducted there in a manner which resembles the Mafia more than a legitimate action.

"This is a norm which we cannot accept in the 21st century," Barak said.

Barak said rumors that Tannenbaum had been involved in intelligence or was kidnapped from the northern border were baseless.

Israel sees his abduction as a violation of all international legal norms, a Defense Ministry statement said.

Itim news agency said Tannenbaum was apparently kidnapped in Geneva. In Switzerland, federal police spokesman Rolf Debrunner told AP the authorities are checking the report. A Qatari television station said he was brought drugged to Lebanon.

A court-ordered ban on the grounds of state security has prohibited the publication of further details about Tannenbaum and his disappearance.

Jerusalem Magistrate's Court issued an injunction at the request of the General Security Service and the State Attorney's Office banning publication of "any detail regarding the investigation into the disappearance of Col. (res.) Elhanan Tannenbaum, who is allegedly in the hands of Hizbullah, or anything regarding the circumstances of his disappearance."

Israel Radio said Tannenbaum had been involved in deals with the Palestinians and had likely been abducted by pro-Iranian elements and handed over to Hizbullah in Lebanon.

The Associated Press quoted unnamed Lebanese sources saying they had information Hizbullah had captured an Israeli Jew of Arab descent working for Israeli Intelligence who had been seeking contact with the Lebanese to get information about the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

First word of Tannenbaum's abduction came in a dramatic statement in Beirut yesterday by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah at a rally in support of the Islamic fundamentalist movement in the presence of numerous dignitaries, including Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss.

He said the organization, in a complicated operation, had captured an Israeli officer with the rank of colonel who had been involved in Israel's security apparatus, generally a reference to the intelligence service.

Nasrallah, who dedicated the operation to the Palestinian "Al-Aksa" uprising, did not give details of the abductee or when he was kidnapped.

"With God's help, I am honored to inform you gladly that the Islamic Resistance performed a qualitative and complex security operation, capturing an Israeli colonel, who works for an Israeli security apparatus," he announced to thundering applause.

"We will announce later the appropriate details at the appropriate time. We will leave them to search for him, for his name, for his tale," Nasrallah told the meeting in a speech broadcast live on Hizbullah's al-Manar television.

The announcement yesterday morning sent a chill throughout the IDF and defense establishment. The army immediately ordered a roster taken of its troops and carried out an examination of the northern border. Security sources have warned that Hizbullah would try to kidnap more soldiers or civilians. The IDF has since increased precautions against kidnapping along that border.

After a few hours, it was determined that the border had not been breached, nor was any soldier missing. The security services did the same, and according to Barak's office no one was said to be found missing.

It was also thought briefly that perhaps an Israeli farmer from the North had been abducted, but that, too, proved to be unfounded.

Metulla Local Council head Ya'acov Katz said all farmers who had been out in their fields and orchards had been accounted for and nobody had been reported missing from the town. Similar checks were made in other communities along the northern border with the same results.

UNIFIL spokesman Timur Goksel said there had been no reports of any unusual activity along or near the border in the past few days.

Later in the day, defense officials said they had received an inquiry from the family of a man named Elhanan Tannenbaum saying they had lost contact with him.

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Tannenbaum had been abroad on his own accord and had nothing to do with the state.

"Not all is known at the moment. There is a man with this name," Sneh said. "What is known is that a man with this name left the country 12 days ago."

Sneh added that so far Israel has not received any information on the condition of the three kidnapped soldiers.

Sneh said that Hizbullah, with Iranian backing, wants to drive the region into more violence.

"What we are seeing now is the preview and we have to be ready for it," he said.

Meanwhile, former GSS head Ya'acov Perry, who is coordinating efforts for the return of the three kidnapped soldiers, met with their families yesterday and briefed them on the situation.

Also, the IDF Spokesman flatly denied rumors that the three had been abducted while trying to buy drugs from Lebanese. The army said there was no evidence to support this and such baseless reports were harmful.

Hizbullah has said it wants to exchange the three soldiers for hundreds of Lebanese and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails. But so far, the group has refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross or the UN access to them.

(Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.)

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), October 15, 2000.

Jer usalem Post

Tuesday, October 17 2000 02:29 18 Tishri 5761

Tannenbaum's daughter appeals for his release By David Rudge

HAIFA (October 17) - The daughter of Elhanan Tannenbaum, the Israeli kidnapped by Hizbullah in an operation by the extremist Shi'ite organization abroad, made an impassioned plea last night for the release of her father.

Keren Tannenbaum said the abduction of her father, 56, by Hizbullah was immoral and inhumane.

"My father is sick and needs medication. I and my family are very worried about him and hope he will return home safe and well," said Keren last night.

Earlier, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah confirmed that the "Israeli army colonel" being held by the organization was indeed Elhanan Tannenbaum.

Nasrallah, at a press conference in Lebanon yesterday, maintained that the abductee was a member of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency who had been trying to breach Hizbullah's hierarchy by recruiting a senior member of the organization.

The claims have been categorically denied by Israeli officials who maintained that Tannenbaum was a normal citizen who had gone abroad on private business.

According to some reports, Tannenbaum, who was said to have been an officer in the IDF Artillery Corps, had business dealings with Arabs, and it was the latter who captured him and handed him over to Hizbullah. These reports maintain that the Arab businessmen used Iranian embassies and their diplomatic auspices in order to smuggle him to Lebanon.

Iran claims that four of its diplomats were snatched in 1982 during the early stages of the Lebanon War and it holds Israel responsible for their safety and welfare.

Nasrallah yesterday tried to disclaim any Iranian involvement in the kidnapping of Tannenbaum, saying he was a Mossad agent who had been lured to Lebanon on the basis of meeting the Hizbullah contact he had been hoping to recruit.

According to Nasrallah's version of events, Tannenbaum was followed by Hizbullah operatives after his arrival in Lebanon from Brussels, Belgium, using a false passport, and was then "arrested" by Hizbullah. This action, said Nasrallah, could not be considered a kidnapping in light of the circumstances, but the detention of a secret agent.

"When you have an officer of the rank of colonel who has worked for a long time with the Mossad and wanted to penetrate Hizbullah at a higher level and comes to Lebanon of his own free will... it is the legitimate right of the resistance [Hizbullah] to capture and detain him," he said.

Nevertheless, Nasrallah declined to give any details about the health of Tannenbaum or the three IDF soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah on October 7, other than to say they were well.

Nasrallah made it clear that Hizbullah would not allow representatives of any international organization to visit the abductees or examine their state of health unless Israel was to first make some gestures.

These would include the release of Lebanese held by Israel - notably Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani although Nasrallah did not mention them by name - as well as the return of all those missing since 1982.

At the Sharm e-Sheikh summit yesterday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan promised Prime Minister Ehud Barak yesterday he would do what he could to bring about Tannenbaum's release.

Barak said he expected the UN to take the necessary measures to bring Tannenbaum home, and discussed a recent disturbing overtures on the part of Lebanese Prime Minister Selim Hoss toward Nasrallah.

It was not clear whether Barak also discussed the recent capture of three Israeli soldiers along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Nasrallah indicated that Hizbullah was prepared for a speedy resolution of the hostage crisis, saying the United Nations, the Russians and the French had already made overtures regarding negotiations, although German involvement was very weak, despite previous mediation by Germany.

Using psychological warfare tactics which the organization has honed over its years of battle against Israel, Nasrallah turned to the parents of the three kidnapped IDF soldiers, saying they should be aware that Israel had so far done nothing to secure their release. He maintained the soldiers were well despite bloodstains found at the scene of the kidnapping that would indicate that one or more of the soldiers was wounded.

Nasrallah warned of a severe response by Hizbullah if Israel were to take retaliatory action over the latest events.

Security sources in Israel said Nasrallah's comments further clouded the issue instead of clarifying it, and that there were grave doubts about the veracity of some of his statements.

Officials in Israel and the Israeli embassy in Berne, Switzerland, from where Tannenbaum was reportedly snatched, stressed that although he held the rank of colonel on his release from the IDF, he was not involved in any military or intelligence activities but was simply a private businessman.

A senior official from the Defense Ministry told The Jerusalem Post last night that Elhanan Tannenbaum had anything to do with the Mossad.

"Tannenbaum never had any links with the Mossad or any kind of clandestine activity. He never received anything from the defense establishment or Mossad. He never acted for the Mossad," the senior official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In London, the Daily Telegraph said a man named Hanan Tannenbaum was among five Israeli agents arrested in Lausanne in 1998 while trying to bug the flat of a Hizbullah suspect.

(Arieh O'Sullivan and Janine Zacharia contributed to this report.)

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), October 16, 2000.

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