Lebanon Guerrilla Prisoners Greed
Jan. 13, 2000
KFAR TIBNIT, Lebanon (AP) _ Israeli-allied militiamen today released 25 Lebanese guerrillas and other prisoners who had been held in Lebanon's Israeli-occupied zone, the second such release in three weeks.
Today's release and another in December of five Hezbollah guerrillas marked a new stage in efforts to tackle the issue of Lebanese prisoners and Israeli soldiers missing in action in Lebanon. The Hezbollah guerrillas are fighting to oust Israeli occupation troops from a buffer zone Israel set up in Lebanon in 1985.
The releases have come as peace talks resume between Israel and Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon.
The prisoners were freed as a goodwill gesture marking the new year and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holidays, the South Lebanon Army militia said in a statement.
The 25 people released today included accused guerrillas and people who allegedly aided them. They had been held without trial, some as long as nine years.
Most were taken by International Committee of the Red Cross officials to their villages in the occupied zone. Seven were taken to the Kfar Tibnit crossing that links an Israeli-occupied area in South Lebanon with the rest of the country.
There, hundreds of cheering relatives and friends were on hand. Some carried the Hezbollah flag. An old woman overcome by emotion screamed as she rushed to embrace a relative. Another fainted.
``Our great joy will only be complete when we win the freedom of the rest of the prisoners,'' said Izzat Yassin, who spent over five years in the Khiam detention camp on suspicion of aiding the guerrillas.
Elsewhere today, fighting continued in southern Lebanon. Israel's warplanes struck suspected guerrilla targets in a mountain stronghold for the third consecutive day, Lebanese security officials said.
In Jerusalem, a military spokesman confirmed that Israeli warplanes were in action over south Lebanon. There was no immediate word on casualties or damage.