Israelis blame Iran for latest Hizbollah kidnapping--Israeli Intelligence suspects he may be in Iran : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Posted at 6:40 a.m. PDT Monday, October 16, 2000

Israelis blame Iran for Hizbollah kidnapping JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli officials are accusing Iran of orchestrating the kidnapping of an Israeli businessman and reserve officer by Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas in Switzerland.

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh told CNN Sunday night: ``All the details are not known so far but there is one thing which is very, very clear. There is here a worldwide campaign of terrorism orchestrated by Iran, and (Palestinian President) Yasser Arafat has to decide if he joins it or not.''

Israeli defense commentators, briefed by intelligence officials, said in articles Monday that Hizbollah could not have abducted 54-year-old Elhanan Tannenbaum (correct) without extensive financial, logistical and diplomatic help from Iran.

One veteran military analyst, Ze'ev Schiff of Ha'aretz, even suggested that Tannenbaum might have been taken to Iran.

``It is fair to assume that he has not been taken to Lebanon and that he is either in the country in which he was kidnapped or has been transferred to Iran,'' Schiff wrote, without citing a source.

Hizbollah has claimed the abduction of ``a colonel who works for an Israeli security apparatus.''

Although senior Israeli sources say Tannenbaum -- who they insist is no more than an ordinary reserve officer -- appears to have gone missing in Switzerland, Swiss authorities have not been able to confirm his disappearance.

Ron Ben-Yishai, military commentator of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, said the Israelis had no specific evidence of Iranian involvement in the latest kidnapping, but that they had substantial intelligence on Tehran's role in helping Hizbollah set up networks abroad to attack Israeli interests.


Groups close to Hizbollah were involved in a wave of kidnappings of foreigners in Lebanon in the 1980s and Iran, which founded and funds the Lebanese Shi'ite group, was involved in international negotiations for their release.

In the 1990s, the organization focused on guerrilla warfare to drive Israeli occupation forces out of southern Lebanon, culminating in Israel's unilateral withdrawal in May and the collapse of its proxy militia, the South Lebanon Army.

This is the first time Hizbollah has kidnapped an Israeli in a third country, although Argentine justice authorities have accused it of bombing Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina in 1992 and 1994 with suspected Iranian backing.

Since May, Hizbollah has focused on translating its aura of heroism into more power in Lebanese politics, with only limited success because Syria, the power broker in Lebanon, forced it into an electoral alliance with the Amal movement.

Hizbollah guerrillas captured three Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese border on Oct. 7, prompting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to rush to Damascus and Beirut last week.

Kharrazi said he saw no imminent exchange of the three for 19 Lebanese prisoners still held by Israel, saying a swap should involve all Arab prisoners held by the Jewish state.

Iran says it gives Hizbollah only ``humanitarian'' assistance but Western intelligence sources say Tehran's security services are involved in coordinating cooperation among Hizbollah and the Palestinian radical groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The sources say Imad Mughniyah, a senior Hizbollah official based in Tehran, is playing a key role in this coordination.

They also said Hizbollah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah had met Hamas and PIJ officials in Iran in July.

-- Carl Jenkins (, October 16, 2000

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