Cabinet Frees Five PA Stone-Throwers in Hizbullah Deal
(IsraelNN.com) The Cabinet voted Sunday to free five Palestinian Authority Arabs convicted of throwing rocks at Israeli drivers to conclude last month's swap with Hizbullah for the bodies of kidnapped IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
All five were due for release in the near future.
Under the terms of the deal, the Israeli government was left to determine the number of PA prisoners to be freed, one month following the initial exchange in which convicted murderer Samir Kuntar and four Hizbullah terrorists were returned to Lebanon.
In return, Israel was also to receive information about the fate of missing Israeli Air force navigator Ron Arad, whose aircraft was shot down over Lebanon in 1986.
Hizbullah informed Israel in a report that it believed Arad to be dead but provided no documentation on the circumstances of his death or the location of his grave.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert termed the 80-page Hizbullah report "inadequate" but convinced the Cabinet to vote in favor of the deal to free Kuntar in exchange for Goldwasser and Regev, whose fate was unknown until the last moment, when their coffins arrived at Rosh HaNikra.
Israeli Mossad intelligence chief Meir Dagan was more blunt, scorning the report as an outright "fraud."
Hamas Learning from Hizbullah
Although Hamas terrorists have insisted that kidnapped IDF Staff-Sgt. Gilad Shalit, abducted by the group's operatives three weeks prior to Goldwasser and Regev, is still alive, he remains in enemy hands, and they have been silent as to his condition and whereabouts.
Repeated attempts by various negotiators at brokering a prisoner exchange deal for his release, including ongoing talks with Egyptian mediators, have ended in failure.
Saudi Arabian media reported Saturday that Hamas was once again freezing negotiations for Shalit's release, this time using the excuse that the political situation in Israel was too unstable to sustain any agreement that might be reached.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office declined to comment, reiterating a recent decision to implement a blackout on all issues relating to negotiations for Shalit.