Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hizbu'llah Dubs the Prisoner Exchange Deal, "Operation Radwaan" after Martyred Commander

In a pooled handout picture from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), personnel of the Islamic Health Committee linked to Hezbollah stand by boxes containing the remains of Hezbollah and Palestinian fighters from a Red Cross truck at the southern Lebanese border crossing of Naqura during a prisoner swap with Israel on 16 July 2008. Hezbollah on 16 July handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers seized by guerrillas two years ago, in a prisoner swap greeted with triumph in Lebanon but anguish in Israel. The remains of the Lebanese and Palestinian fighters, who were killed fighting against the 1982 Israeli invasion and subsequent 17-year occupation of a large swath of Lebanese territory, had been held for up to two decades by the Israelis.

The Lebanese Shi'i political party Hizbu'llah named Wednesday's exchange deal with the Israelis Operation Radwaan, after the honorific title (Hajj Radwaan) of 'Imad Mughniyyah, a major leader in the party's paramilitary wing who was assassinated in February 2008. Hizbu'llah accuses Israel of being behind the car bombing in Damascus which killed Mughniyyah. Israel, to no one's surprise, denies involvement. Another theory holds that the Saudis, whose puritanical Salafi rulers and religious elite fear growing Iranian and "Shi'i" influence in the Middle East, were behind the assassination, perhaps in tandem with the United States and Israelis.
After Mughniyyah's assassination, Hizbu'llah leader Shaykh Sayyid Hassan Nasrallash vowed revenge against Israel for carrying out the murder. One wonders whether the exchange deal, in which the Israeli government grudgingly handed over four imprisoned Hizbu'llah fighters, Samir Quntaar, and the bodies of 199 Lebanese and Palestinian resistance fighters for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, was the revenge that Nasrallah promised five-and-a-half months ago. If so, by choosing to retaliate in this way, Hizbu'llah could avoid negative military repercussions that may result from a premature military strike against an Israeli target. The public relations victory that has resulted from this exchange has seemingly helped bring together Lebanon's bickering political parties and factions. Druze Progressive Socialist Party leader and Hizbu'llah critic (today) "Hobbit" Walid Jumblatt came together with Labor Minister Muhammad Fneish (of Hizbu'llah) and Druze leader and Hizbu'llah ally Talal Arslan to welcome Quntaar back to his native village of Abey.

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