The last time Hezbollah abducted Israeli soldiers, the Shia militant group was richly rewarded.
Since forcing Israel to withdraw from a self-declared “security zone” in southern Lebanon in May 2000, Hezbollah has made freeing Lebanese prisoners held by Israel one of its main goals. In October 2000, Hezbollah guerrillas ambushed an Israeli patrol near the border, severely wounding three soldiers in an attempt to capture them. The three soon died, but Hezbollah kept the bodies.
Through the German government, Hezbollah and Israel held three years of torturous negotiations. In January 2004, Israel freed 425 Arab prisoners, including two Lebanese guerrilla leaders, in exchange for the soldiers’ bodies and an Israeli businessman kidnapped by Hezbollah.
At a mass rally staged by Hezbollah to welcome the freed prisoners, the group’s leader warned it would abduct more Israeli soldiers to secure the release of the last three Lebanese detainees being held by Israel.
Turning to a poster of Hezbollah’s ambush of the three soldiers, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah declared: “This is a choice.” Saying Hezbollah fighters were heavy-handed in fatally wounding the soldiers, he added, “I pledge to you that, next time, they will bring them alive.”
On Wednesday, after Hezbollah had kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a daring cross-border raid, a smiling Nasrallah dubbed the latest abductions “Operation Truthful Promise.”