BEIRUT: An Israeli raid during the 2006 war in Lebanon killed two Israeli soldiers held captive by Hezbollah, according to a senior aide to a Lebanese leader allied to the group.
Ali Hassan Khalil, who is now health minister and top aide to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, wrote in his memoirs of the 34-day war being published by As-Safir daily in Beirut that news of the death of the two soldiers was relayed by senior Hezbollah official Hussein Khalil.
Hezbollah guerrillas captured the two soldiers in a cross border attack on July 12, 2006, with the aim of exchanging them for Lebanese and Arab prisoners held in Israel. Israel responded by launching a war against Hezbollah demanding the freeing of the soldiers and the disarming of Hezbollah.
Israel Wednesday denied the claims.
“These claims are baseless, as the two soldiers were killed by Hezbollah during the attack on their IDF patrol on July 12, 2006,” Ofir Gendelman, spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister, said via Twitter in response to a question from Israeli journalist Amir Mizroch.
Mizroch also asked the official Israel Defense Forces spokesperson for clarifications about the claims via the social-networking site. The spokesperson described the allegations as “blatant lies” and said they were “just another psychological warfare attempt” by Hezbollah
"Hezbollah is responsible for the kidnapping of the IDF soldiers in 2006 and, as such, is responsible for the tragic results leading to their deaths," Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post quoted the IDF as saying in a statement.
The remains of the two soldiers were eventually exchanged with the last Lebanese prisoners that Israel held two years after the 2006 conflict.
It had been assumed that the soldiers were killed in the original Hezbollah attack. Hezbollah never commented on the condition of the soldiers until it handed over their remains, and it never discussed the issue since.
But Khalil wrote in As-Safir Wednesday that he and Berri were holding a meeting with the Hezbollah official on August 3, 2006, to assess the developments of the war when he told them that the two soldiers had recently died as a result of an Israeli raid on an unidentified location.
“There is another subject that is known to very few brothers who are directly linked to the issue and no one other than us will find out about it later,” Hussein Khalil was quoted as saying. “Israeli bombardments during the past few days have led to the death of the two Israeli captives… The brothers had taken all precautions to avoid something like this happening but the [Israeli] expansion of bombardment and the use of heavy rockets have led to this.”
Berri’s aide wrote that Hezbollah’s Khalil continued, saying: “What an irony… Israel kills the captives for [whose freedom] the war was launched. From our side as resistance, we will continue the battle of negotiations as if nothing has happened.”
The minister did not say why the allegation was not revealed earlier but described the incident as one of the biggest secrets of the 2006 war.