Hizballah Making Threats Under Pressure, Analyst Says

July 7, 2008 - 8:13 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Threats by Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to kidnap Israeli soldiers is a sign that Hizballah is 'under pressure' at home, an Israeli expert said here on Monday.

The militants would use the soldiers as bargaining chips, in case Israel does not agree to exchange Lebanese prisoners

Speaking at a rally in the village of Jibsheet in southern Lebanon, Nasrallah said his militant group would give third-party talks one more chance to succeed.

"We will give the negotiations on the issue of the prisoners and the detainees one last chance... After that we will consider the negotiations to have reached a dead end and that the number [of kidnapped Israelis] is insufficient for a prisoners' exchange," Nasrallah said.

"Then we will work day and night to have in [our] possession new Israeli captives," he added.

It is believed that Hizballah currently holds four Israelis, including Elhanan Tannenbaum and three Israeli soldiers. The latter have been declared dead by the army.

Tannenbaum was abducted in October 2000, within days of the kidnap of the three soldiers, who were ambushed by Hizballah along a U.N.-marked boundary. Hizballah is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that Nasrallah's statements were the result of pressure from Lebanese families to bring home Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. According to reports, Israel currently holds 15 Lebanese prisoners.

"Nasrallah [has] big troubles," said Middle East expert Dr. Yossi Olmert. "He is under pressure in Lebanon to bring about the release of people in Israel."

There is a "growing nervousness" from some elements in Lebanon that Syria will withdraw from Lebanon due to U.S. pressure, said Olmert.

Syria has been under intense U.S. pressure for months to close down the offices of terrorist organizations headquartered in Damascus as well as to cut ties with Hizballah in Lebanon.

Syria is the main powerbroker in Lebanon.

Olmert described Nasrallah's speech as "hysterical," which was not indicative of strength but rather of weakness. He also noted that Nasrallah talked about losing patience and said that fundamentalists usually pride themselves on their patience.

The speech came on the 14th anniversary of Israel's abduction of Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, a former Hizballah leader.

Obeid was abducted by Israeli commandos in a raid in 1989 and another Lebanese guerrilla leader, Mustafa Dirani was nabbed in 1994 in the hopes that they might provide information on MIAs.

Israel radio quoted a Syrian foreign ministry spokesman on Monday saying that Nasrallah's remarks indicated Hizballah's desire to come to an understanding on the kidnapped men.

Germany occasionally has mediated between Israel and the Hizballah on the issue.