Russian, German Intelligence Services to Rescue Kidnapped Israeli Soliders — Report

Jul. 21, 2006

Russian and German intelligence services are using contacts to Middle East extremists in a bid to win the freedom of three Israeli soldiers being held by militants, a report said Friday.

According to the DPA news agency, the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) — in tandem with Russian intelligence — is seeking to activate long-standing links to both Hamas and Hezbollah, said the Berlin Zeitung newspaper quoting unnamed officials.

Hamas is holding an Israeli soldier in Gaza and Lebanese-based Hezbollah has two Israeli soldiers it captured on a raid earlier this month. Israel has launched major military operations into both Gaza and Lebanon in a bid to free its soldiers and destroy Hezbollah and Hamas’ infrastructure.

BND chief Ernst Uhrlau is an experienced negotiator with Mideast militants.

In January 2004, as the intelligence services coordinator to then chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, he helped organize a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah in which a German Air Force jet flew a kidnapped Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers from Beirut to an airport in Germany.

A second Luftwaffe jet brought more than 30 of the over 400 prisoners to be released by Israel to Cologne for repatriation to Lebanon and other countries. The remaining prisoners were released on Israel’s border to Palestinian territories.

A similar swap was arranged between Israel and Hezbollah under chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1996 in which Israel released prisoners for the return of bodies of its soldiers.

Uhrlau’s continued role in such deals was apparently spotlighted by Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor. “It is now time for the same functionaries from Germany to get active again,” said Palmor in a German ZDF TV interview on Thursday.

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