DAILY MAIL : 17 July 2008
From Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem and Paul Harris in London
In an emotionally charged day, Lebanon's Hezbollah guerillas handed
over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
Just a few hours later, Israel set free its most reviled prisoner,
Samir Qantar, who was jailed for the murder of three Israelis,
including a four-yearold child, nearly 30 years ago.
Four other prisoners and the remains of 199 Lebanese and Palestinian
fighters killed in clashes over the years were also released.
The families of the two dead soldiers, whose capture sparked a
month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, wept as TV images
revealed the two black coffins being handed over at a UN peacekeeping
base on the IsraelLebanon border.
Although they had long suspected Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were
dead, it was the first concrete proof of their fate since they were
seized two years ago. Israeli generals personally informed their
families of their deaths, following their identification by forensic
experts. The two soldiers will be buried today.
Regev's father Zvi wept as he watched Hezbollah place the coffins on
the ground. 'It was horrible to see,' he said. 'We were always hoping
Udi and Eldad were alive and they would come home and we would hug
The fraught and tense scenes in Israel were in marked contrast to the
hero's welcome that awaited Qantar, who left Lebanon when he was 17 to
carry out his deadly mission.
Dressed in combat fatigues, he and four other prisoners were greeted
by a red carpet and brass band as they crossed the border into the
coastal town of Naqoura in southern Lebanon.
One sign held by a supporter read: 'Israel is shedding tears of pain,
Lebanon is shedding tears of joy.'
As he was met by Hezbollah officials and clerics, Qantar – Lebanon's
longestheld prisoner in Israel – wiped away tears before the cheering
The five were later flown to the Lebanese capital Beirut where they
were met by president Michel Suleiman and prime minister Fouad
Although polls reveal many Israelis endorse the exchange, Qantar's
release is controversial because of the sheer brutality of his crimes.
In 1979, he and other gunmen struck in the Israeli coastal town of
Nahariya, killing a policeman before attacking Danny Haran in his
After shooting Mr Haran in front of his four-year-old daughter, he
then beat the child to death with his rifle. Mr Haran's wife, Smadar,
who fled into a crawl space with her two-year-old daughter,
accidentally smothered the girl trying to stifle her cries.
Qantar has never expressed remorse for the attack. Yesterday Smadar –
now 56 and with two grown-up daughters from a second marriage – told
the Daily Mail in an exclusive interview: 'People should know the
truth about who this man is.
'He is the one who brutally murdered my family. The one who laughed as
he crushed my little girl's skull against a rock. The man who is now
the hero of Hezbollah, who describe him as "a very, very brave