Paper: Israeli Soldiers 'Humanely' Held

The Associated Press
Friday, April 6, 2007; 1:52 PM

JERUSALEM -- Two Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon since last summer are being treated "humanely," an oficial of the Islamic group told an Israeli Arab newspaper published Friday.

The report was a rare indication that the two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, were alive. The two were captured on July 12, 2006 in a cross-border raid that sparked last summer's monthlong conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah previously has not released any details on the condition of the soldiers or provided any sign they are still alive since they seized the pair in a July 12 cross-border raid that sparked the 34-day Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.

Mahmoud Komati, the deputy leader of Hezbollah's political bureau, told the Nazareth-based As-Sennara newspaper that Islam requires that captives be given "humane treatment." When the interviewer asked Komati if that meant the two Israeli soldiers were receiving such treatment, Komati said it did.

"That's how we're treating the prisoners we're holding now, because that's in our religion," Komati said.

However, Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV on Friday quoted Komati as denying the newspaper report. It said Komati was not authorized to discuss the matter, and that any word on the soldiers' fate would only come from Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

Ehud Goldwasser's wife, Karnit Goldwasser, said the newspaper report proved nothing.

"This is not a turning point, this is not a sign of life ... A sign of life is when someone sees them, and a Red Cross representative must see them," she told Israel Radio on Friday.

Also Friday, As-Sennara quoted anonymous Palestinian officials as saying that the family of a third abducted soldier, Gilad Shalit, had been allowed to send him eyeglasses through Egyptian mediators attempting to negotiate his release.

The Yediot Ahronot daily said Shalit's father, Noam, sent the glasses two weeks ago. The father told the paper he had no idea whether the glasses had reached his son.

"In the past we asked to send the glasses by means of the Red Cross. What does it give me if the glasses did or did not reach him. Has anybody seen him? Can anyone say anything about his condition? We don't know anything."

Like Hezbollah, the Hamas-linked gunmen holding Shalit are not known to have offered any concrete indication of Shalit's condition since his capture in a June 2006 raid near the Gaza Strip border.

Hezbollah and the Palestinian militants holding Shalit seek prisoner swap deals that would see the release of hundreds of Arab prisoners in return for the three Israelis.

© 2007 The Associated Press