Hizbollah says release of murderer who shot father and smashed Israeli child to death is reason for attack on Israel
Archille Lauro attack also staged to free child killer Samir Quntar
Prosecute Abu Abbas
The world should know what Abu Abbas did to my family.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Post.
Abu Abbas, the former head of a Palestinian terrorist group who was captured in Iraq on April 15, is infamous for masterminding the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. But there are probably few who remember why Abbas's terrorists held the ship and its 400-plus passengers hostage for two days. It was to gain the release of a Lebanese terrorist named Samir Kuntar, who is locked up in an Israeli prison for life. Kuntar's name is all but unknown to the world. But I know it well. Because almost a quarter of a century ago, Kuntar murdered my family.
It was a murder of unimaginable cruelty, crueler even than the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, the American tourist who was shot on the Achille Lauro and dumped overboard in his wheelchair. Kuntar's mission against my family, which never made world headlines, was also masterminded by Abu Abbas. And my wish now is that this terrorist leader should be prosecuted in the United States, so that the world may know of all his terrorist acts, not the least of which is what he did to my family on April 22, 1979.
It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband, Danny, and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Nahariya, a city on the northern coast of Israel, about six miles south of the Lebanese border. Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building. They had already killed a police officer. As they charged up to the floor above ours, I opened the door to our apartment. In the moment before the hall light went off, they turned and saw me. As they moved on, our neighbor from the upper floor came running down the stairs. I grabbed her and pushed her inside our apartment and slammed the door.
Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat.
They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. "This is just like what happened to my mother," I thought.
As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl's skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.
By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.
The next day, Abu Abbas announced from Beirut that the terrorist attack in Nahariya had been carried out "to protest the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty" at Camp David the previous year. Abbas seems to have a gift for charming journalists, but imagine the character of a man who protests an act of peace by committing an act of slaughter.
Two of Abbas's terrorists had been killed by police on the beach. The other two were captured, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Despite my protests, one was released in a prisoner exchange for Israeli POWs several months before the Achille Lauro hijacking. Abu Abbas was determined to find a way to free Kuntar as well. So he engineered the hijacking of the Achille Lauro off the coast of Egypt and demanded the release of 50 Arab terrorists from Israeli jails. The only one of those prisoners actually named was Samir Kuntar. The plight of hundreds held hostage on a cruise ship for two days at sea lent itself to massive international media coverage. The attack on Nahariya, by contrast, had taken less than an hour in the middle of the night. So what happened then was hardly noticed outside of Israel.
One hears the terrorists and their excusers say that they are driven to kill out of desperation. But there is always a choice. Even when you have suffered, you can choose whether to kill and ruin another's life, or whether to go on and rebuild. Even after my family was murdered, I never dreamed of taking revenge on any Arab. But I am determined that Samir Kuntar should never be released from prison.
In 1984, I had to fight my own government not to release him as part of an exchange for several Israeli soldiers who were POWs in Lebanon. I understood, of course, that the families of those POWs would gladly have agreed to the release of an Arab terrorist to get their sons back. But I told Yitzhak Rabin, then defense minister, that the blood of my family was as red as that of the POWs. Israel had always taken a position of refusing to negotiate with terrorists. If they were going to make an exception, let it be for a terrorist who was not as cruel as Kuntar. "Your job is not to be emotional," I told Rabin, "but to act rationally." And he did.
So Kuntar remains in prison. I have been shocked to learn that he has married an Israeli Arab woman who is an activist on behalf of terrorist prisoners. As the wife of a prisoner, she gets a monthly stipend from the government. I'm not too happy about that.
In recent years, Abu Abbas started telling journalists that he had renounced terrorism and that killing Leon Klinghoffer had been a mistake. But he has never said that killing my family was a mistake. He was a terrorist once, and a terrorist, I believe, he remains. Why else did he spend these last years, as the Israeli press has reported, free as a bird in Baghdad, passing rewards of $25,000 from Saddam Hussein to families of Palestinian suicide bombers? More than words, that kind of cash prize, which is a fortune to poor families, was a way of urging more suicide bombers. The fortunate thing about Abbas's attaching himself to Hussein is that it set him up for capture.
Some say that Italy should have first crack at Abbas. It had already convicted him of the Achille Lauro hijacking in absentia in 1986. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi now wants Abbas handed over so that he can begin serving his life sentence. But it's also true that in 1985, the Italians had Abbas in their hands after U.S. fighter jets forced his plane to land in Sicily. And yet they let him go. So while I trust Berlusconi, who knows if a future Italian government might not again wash its hands of Abbas?
In 1995, Rabin, then our prime minister, asked me to join him on his trip to the White House, where he was to sign a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat, which I supported. I believe that he wanted me to represent all Israeli victims of terrorism. Rabin dreaded shaking hands with Arafat, knowing that those hands were bloody. At first, I agreed to make the trip, but at the last minute, I declined. As prime minister, Rabin had to shake hands with Arafat for political reasons. As a private person, I did not. So I stayed here.
Now I am ready and willing to come to the United States to testify against Abu Abbas if he is tried for terrorism. The daughters of Leon Klinghoffer have said they are ready to do the same. Unlike Klinghoffer, Danny, Einat and Yael were not American citizens. But Klinghoffer was killed on an Italian ship in Abbas's attempt to free the killer of my family in Israel. We are all connected by the international web of terrorism woven by Abbas. Let the truth come out in a new and public trial. And let it be in the United States, the leader in the struggle against terrorism.
MIM: More reason why terrorists must be executed- in 2003 Kuntar (Quntar) was demanded in a prisoner swap. Forcing his release was also one of the goals behind the attack on the Archille Lauro.
Kuntar won't be released
Smadar Haran, whose family was massacred by terroris Samir Kuntar, said on Army Radio Tuesday morning that she refuses to entertain thoughts on the release of her family's murderer.
"I refuse to be another piece of red meat thrown into the gladiator ring by Nasrallah so that he can enjoy the continuing circus of bereaved families he has set against eachother."
Hizbullah's demand for the inclusion in any prisoners' exchange deal of Lebanese Druse terrorist Samir Kuntar has put in doubt the expected prisoner exchange and has drawn a steadfast response from Israeli officials, who maintain that terrorists with Israeli blood on their hands, such as Kuntar, will not be part of the deal.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reiterated to the Likud faction on Monday that Kuntar will not be released from jail as part of the prisoner exchange.
Asked by MK Ehud Yatom why Kuntar was not mentioned specifically in the government's decision, Sharon said, "We agreed a long time ago that Kuntar would not be released."
Sharon said there is still no target date for the
Asked about why Azzam Azzam wasn't included in the
The Hizbullah are adamant that there would be no prisoner exchange deal with Israel if Kuntar, who headed the four-man Palestine Liberation Front squad on the murderous attack in Nahariya 24 years ago, is not included.
Bassam Kuntar, the brother of Samir Kuntar, claims Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has personally promised him that his brother was an integral part of the exchange, according to Al Jazeera. Hizbullah officials also claimed that they have a letter from Israel pledging to include Kuntar in future prisoner swap deals. Foreign Minister Shalom has not directly reacted to the report on the letter.
But Shalom has responsed to Hizbullah's demand for Kuntar's release that Israel too had "red lines" it would not cross. "Prime Minister Sharon said that Kuntar's release is out of the question. The murder of a family in Israel is unforgivable. I oppose his release. We have stated in the clearest possible terms throughout the negotiations that Kuntar is not on the list," Shalom said.
"I hope the other side understands that there are limits to the demands they place on us. We have not agreed to release any nationals with blood on their hands," the Foreign Minister added.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's special envoy, Ilan Biran, is to go to Germany in the next few days to put what Israel hopes will be the finishing touches on the prisoner swap the cabinet narrowly passed on Sunday.
By a vote of 12-11, Sharon was able to pass a resolution laying down the principles of the prisoner swap with Hizbullah.
The issue of Kuntar resurfaced after Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah made clear that there would be no deal without Kuntar.
In Lebanon, Hizbullah officials did not formally respond to the Israeli cabinet's decision to proceed with the prisoner exchange deal. However, Hizbullah officials did threaten to kidnap more Israelis if the deal collapses.
Mohammed Fneish, a Hizbullah legislator, "If the pressure cards we have ... are not sufficient to convince the Israeli enemy's government to respect the freedom of our detainees ..., the Hizbullah command will definitely search for means to force the Israeli enemy's government to release our detainees," he told Al Manar TV.
The Israeli defense establishment has maintained the criteria that only Lebanese prisoners involved in attacks against Israeli installations in Southern Lebanon may be included in the exchange list, and not those who perpetrated attacks within Israel.
Lebanese TV on Sunday aired interviews with the relatives of Dirani, Obeid and Kuntar. Kuntar's son told the interviewer that Hizbullah had promised the return of his father, or the entire deal woul not go through.
On Saturday, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah confirmed an earlier Hizbullah report in Friday's edition of the Lebanese A-Safir daily newspaper in which sources said that the Shiite group would call off the exchange if Kuntar is not included.
"Any swap that excludes any of the Lebanese detainees will not be acceptable to us and will not happen," Nasrallah said during a Hizbullah-hosted Ramadan fast-breaking meal at sunset Saturday, Associated Press reported.
"I say to the (Israeli) enemy government ... that the first name on the list must be Samir Kantar."
A vicious rampage
Samir Kuntar led the terrorists who infiltrated Israeli territory from Lebanon in April 1979 in a rubber dinghy and beached their boat in Nahariya.
Their aim was to take hostages to delay implementation of the then Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt and demand the release of prisoners held by Israel.
Danny Hadan, 28, and his daughters Einat, four, and Yael, just two, were killed in the attack along with policeman Eliyahu Shahar, who was called to what was originally thought to be a burglary and was shot dead by one of the terrorists.
Shahar's widow, Shula, who brought up their three children alone, has come out strongly against the release of Kuntar as part of any exchange deal. She was 22 and seven months pregnant with their third child when her husband was killed.
Their son, Yakir, who was born two months after the killing of his father after whom he is named, is due to be married in two weeks time.
In recent interviews with the Hebrew press, Yakir said it was impossible for someone who had never known what it was to have a father that a callous murderer should be released and be able to enjoy the rest of his life with his family.
His views were echoed by his mother. "I am totally opposed to the idea that this murderer will be allowed to wander around free," said Shula Shahar.
In an interview with Israel Radio on Sunday she said that noone from the authorities had contacted them about the possibiliy of Kuntar being released, and there had been no prior constultation over the freeing of one of his partners in the Ahmed Jibril exchange deal in 1985.
The two other terrorists were killed by the security forces in the chase after they fled from the Haran family's home, taking Danny and his elder daughter Einat with them as hostages.
Danny Haran and Einat were killed in cold blood by the terrorists. Yael died of suffocation in the arms of her mother, Smadar, who was trying to keep her quiet while they hid in terrified desperation from the terrorists who had invaded their home.
Smadar Haran later re-married and has two daughters from her second husband, psychologist Ya'acov Keizer. She opposed the release of the second terrorist, Ahmad Abarrass, under the Jibril deal and also the fact that Kuntar was allowedd to wed while held in prison.
In recent interviews on radio and in the Hebrew press, Haran (Keizer), said Nasrallah has been conducting a war of nerves against Israel and trying to play families off against one another by "cynical and evil utilization of personal tragedies."
She accused Nasrallah of unbridled extortion in the negotiations conducted via the media that were all part of efforts to boost his own prestige.
Haran said she had voiced her opinions to the appropriate authorities and expressed the hope that the government would find the right balance between humanitarian values and the "red-lines" a sovereign State set regarding its enemies.
Gil Hoffman and David Rudge contributed to this report