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Israeli Soldier Buried After Hezbollah-Israel Swap

July 22, 1996

RAANANA, Israel (AP) _ The family of Yosef Fink finally laid their son to rest at a funeral today, 10 years after the Israeli soldier was captured in a guerrilla ambush in south Lebanon.

The bodies of the American-born Fink and a second soldier, Rachamim Alsheikh, were returned to Israel on Sunday as part of a prisoner exchange between Israel and the militant Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined family, friends and other government officials at Fink’s funeral.

``We were given the right to ease the suffering of mourning parents by bringing their children home,″ Netanyahu said as he stood over Fink’s grave.

``In their memories we will strive for true peace, so that there will be no more mourning parents,″ the prime minister said.

Fink, his coffin draped in the blue and white Israeli flag, was buried with full military honors. He was 21 when he and Alsheikh were captured after their military convoy was ambushed by Hezbollah guerrillas in 1986. A Hezbollah leader said today the two Israelis died of their wounds a few hours after being captured.

Hadassah and Mordechai Fink and their three daughters wept as Yosef’s coffin was lowered into the ground. The family immigrated to Israel in 1967.

Dan Baruch, the city official who told the Finks their son had been taken captive, also attended.

``It is important for the family to have a place where they can come to remember their son,″ he said. ``Now there is a grave in Israel,″ Baruch told Israel radio.

Alsheikh was to be buried later today in Jerusalem.

The two bodies were released Sunday by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in exchange for Israel’s return of 45 Hezbollah prisoners and 123 guerrilla corpses.

The last 23 prisoners were set free this morning at the Kfar Tibnit crossing on the edge of a border enclave Israel occupies in south Lebanon.

It was the biggest swap between Hezbollah and Israel since 1982, the year Israel invaded Lebanon.

In Lebanon, the Hezbollah coffins were laid in a mosque in a Beirut suburb in preparation for a mass burial Tuesday.

When 17 trucks carrying the bodies rolled through the gateway at Kfar Tibnit, a powerful stench swept through the village of 3,000 Shiite Muslims.

Dozens of frenzied relatives leapt onto the trucks to find the bodies of their loved ones. Some of the caskets carried names, but others bore only numbers.

Most freed prisoners vowed to return to the guerrilla campaign until Israeli troops withdraw from the occupied enclave, which Israel calls a ``security zone.″

``We’ll fight against Israel once, twice and three times until its occupation of south Lebanon is eliminated,″ said Ali Saad. Saad, 30, said he has spent 11 years in detention.

Other newly released prisoners said they had been detained for nine to 10 years on charges of attacking Israeli troops and allied militias. Most said they had been tortured.

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