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Israel Govt: Regev & Goldwasser Remains Identified

Israel: Remains of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser officially identified

On Wednesday, 16 July 2008, after two years of waiting for a sign of life from the two abducted Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, their bodies were returned to Israel.

Israel, which mourns their loss, has a duty, as a nation and as a people, to protect those who risk their young lives to defend its citizens. The times and locations of their funerals will be announced.

Shlomo, Ehud Goldwasser's father: "If Nasrallah's great achievement was to conceal the fate of our sons, then I pity him and the Lebanese people. If Hizbullah's great achievement is the release of Kuntar, who is nothing but a repulsive murderer, then I pity them."

***

COMMUNICATION BY THE IDF SPOKESPERSON

Identification Of Two Abducted Soldiers Completed

16 Jul 2008 - Roughly an hour ago, the bodies of First Sergeant Ehud Goldwasser and Sergeant First Class Eldad Regev were positively identified by representatives of the IDF Military Rabbinate, the Medical Corps and other forensic experts at the Rosh Hanikra crossing.

On conclusion of the identification process, the GOC Central Command and the Head of the IDF Human Resources Branch delivered the news to the bereaved families at their homes in Nahariya and Kiryat Motzkin.

First Sergeant Goldwasser and Sergeant First Class Regev have been posthumously promoted to Sergeant Major and First Sergeant, respectively. The times and locations of their funerals will be announced later.

These are difficult times for the Israeli people and the families. The IDF mourns with and accompanies the families in their hour of need.

With the completion of the identification of the fallen soldiers and having informed their families, the IDF has begun transferring the Lebanese prisoners and terrorists' bodies to Lebanon as decided by the Israeli Government on 15 July 2008.

This painful process exemplifies Israel's moral commitment to secure the return of all of their soldiers sent out on operational missions. It demonstrates a compelling moral strength which stems from Judaism, the values of Israeli society and the spirit of the IDF.

***

BEHIND THE HEADLINES

The Return Of Israel's Abducted Soldiers

On Wednesday, 16 July 2008, after two years of waiting for a sign of life from the two abducted Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, their bodies were returned to Israel, together with additional recovered remains of soldiers who fell during the Second Lebanon War.

In a preliminary move, Hizbullah provided a report on the fate of Ron Arad, an Israeli Air Force navigator who was taken captive on 16 October 1986. Unfortunately, the report was a travesty, meant to exonerate Hizbullah and Iran from any responsibility for his fate. Consequently, the Israeli government decided to reject its findings and continues to hold Hizbullah and Iran responsible for Ron Arad.

For its part, Israel returned Samir Kuntar and four other Lebanese terrorists, as well as the bodies of dozens of infiltrators and terrorists to Lebanon. Israel also gave a report on four missing Iranian diplomats to the UN Secretary General.

Despite Israel's misgivings about the deal, it knew that rejecting it could lead to additional delays and prolong the agony of the families.

Israel has a duty, as a nation and as a people, to protect those who risk their young lives to defend its citizens. Every Israeli soldier knows that their country will do its utmost to retrieve them should they fall into the hands of the enemy. This is an expression of Israel's deep reverence for human life and of its respect for the fallen. This principle stems from Israel's sense of morality as well as from Jewish ethics. It is a demonstration of Israel's moral and physical strength.

There is no comparison between soldiers who guard a border to protect civilians and terrorists who penetrate it in order to kill them. Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were serving as ordinary IDF reserve soldiers, checking a border fence, when they were abducted by Hizbullah on 12 July 2006. They were on Israeli sovereign territory conducting routine duties when seized by terrorists in a cross-border attack.

On the other hand, Samir Kuntar, the foremost terrorist of the five being released, is a heinous murderer, responsible for one of the most notorious terror attacks on Israel. Kuntar led a squad of four terrorists belonging to Abu Abbas's Palestine Liberation Front who infiltrated Israel via the sea on 22 April 1979. At midnight, after killing a police officer, they broke into the Nahariya home of the Haran family and abducted Danny and his four-year-old daughter Einat, taking them to the beach. Danny was shot at close range by Kuntar, as his terrified daughter looked on. Kuntar then slaughtered Einat in cold blood by smashing her head against a rock with the butt of his rifle. In the gunfire battle that developed, another Israeli policeman was killed. In the meantime, Danny's wife Smadar was hiding in the home's crawlspace with her two-year-old daughter Yael. Tragically, she accidently smothered her little girl while stifling her cries to prevent the terrorists from discovering them.

It is morally reprehensible that Samir Kuntar, a vile child-killer, is now being hailed as a hero by Hizbullah. An organization, just like a society, can be judged by whom it chooses to idolize and to hold up as an example for its youth. Hizbullah, an extremist Islamist organization, worships death and destruction, all the while clinging to its goal of destroying Israel.

Hizbullah not only poses a danger to Israel, it is also an obstacle to peace and a threat to Lebanon's stability. Hizbullah, an Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization, is dedicated to the destruction of Israel through violence and terrorism. Its extremist Islamic ideology rejects all peace talks and threatens the security of any pragmatic Arab party that seeks a negotiated settlement with Israel. While based in Lebanon and claiming to represent its interests, Hizbullah is oblivious to the aspirations of the Lebanese population. It should be recalled that it was Hizbullah's unprovoked abduction of the two Israeli reservists, along with its simultaneous bombardment of northern Israel, that sparked the Second Lebanon War, to the detriment of millions of Israelis and Lebanese citizens alike.

Hizbullah persists in defying the international community. It is continuing to smuggle arms and ammunition into Lebanon, and to rebuild its missile arsenal, in blatant violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701. It trains, equips and deploys its terrorists not only in areas bordering Israel, but throughout Lebanon, intimidating both Lebanese security forces and UN peace-keepers. The international community must act with determination to remove this manifest threat to the civilians of both Israel and Lebanon.

It is important to note that the deal to return IDF soldiers doesn't legitimize Hizbullah. Israel's decision to return its soldiers should not be interpreted as indicating any change in Israel's policy towards this Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization. The international community must continue to recognize the danger posed by Hizbullah and its extremist cohorts to the stability of the Middle East and should redouble its support of the pragmatic elements in the region, who seek to make peace through dialogue and compromise.

ENDS

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