By David Dolan
CAPTURED SOLDIERS LAID TO REST
The Israeli public was saddened and distressed to finally learn for certain in mid July that two reserve soldiers abducted by Lebanese Hizbullah forces in 2006 were deceased. Widely anticipated confirmation of their deaths came in an exceptionally cruel manner—via a terse Hizbullah announcement broadcast around the world just seconds before two simple black coffins containing their remains were placed on Lebanese soil in preparation for transport to Israel.
The handover of the fallen soldier’s bodies came in exchange for Israel freeing several notorious Lebanese terrorists as part of a government endorsed, and very controversial, “prisoner exchange” between the Jewish state and the extremist Shiite group. Hizbullah’s clerical leaders hailed the deal as yet another “magnificent victory for the Lebanese resistance” movement which brought the country to the brink of civil war just a few months ago.
A senior Israeli military intelligence officer warned cabinet ministers soon after the dramatic exchange took place that heavily armed Hizbullah forces appeared to be preparing to launch additional terrorist assaults along the country’s tense northern border. Political analysts speculated that such attacks, if they come, would probably be under orders from the group’s main regional sponsor, Iran, whose Shiite Muslim leaders wish to divert world attention from their continuing uranium enrichment program in defiance of UN sanctions. All this came as Iran’s other main ally, Syria, appeared to be inching closer to serious peace talks with Israel—a possible further reason for Iran to provoke a fresh conflict in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile two bizarre Palestinian terrorist attacks took place in Jerusalem, both involving bulldozers. The second assault came just hours before American presidential candidate Barack Obama was scheduled to arrive at the nearby King David Hotel. In the Gaza Strip, the June ceasefire between Israel and the extremist Sunni Muslim Hamas group was threatened by more rocket attacks upon nearby Israeli communities. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert—who is likely to be replaced as Kadima party leader during a primary vote scheduled for mid September, thereby losing his grip on power—warned Hamas leaders that a major IDF military operation could still be launched at any time if the ceasefire violations do not end.