Israeli authorities on Monday charged three Hezbollah militants captured in Lebanon with murder and other terrorism-related crimes.
Israel says its forces captured the three Lebanese men, who are all in their 20's, during its recent intervention against Hezbollah in Lebanon. However, Israeli officials say the three are not prisoners of war, but terrorists who will be tried as common criminals. Mickey Rosenfeld is a spokesman for Israel's police.
"All three men are being charged for murder, attempted murder and being members of a terrorist organization, Hezbollah, and carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli forces," said Rosenfeld.
The three were allegedly involved in the July 12 Hezbollah raid into Israel, during which two Israeli soldiers were abducted. Eight other Israeli soldiers died in subsequent fighting. Mickey Rosenfeld says one reason the three are being charged as common criminals is because they were allegedly involved in an operation that took place inside Israel.
"The crimes that were committed and the attacks that happened did take place on Israeli soil, and this is the background and the basis of the decision that has been made about taking these three individuals, and charging them for what they are being charged for," said Rosenfeld.
A lawyer for one of the three men said on Monday that the three do not deny belonging to Hezbollah, but they consider themselves prisoners of war. Israel and the United States consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization, and Israel says it will not treat Hezbollah militants it captures as prisoners of war.
While they face lengthy prison terms, if convicted, the three are likely to be part of a prisoner exchange that is currently being negotiated by a senior U.N. official.
Monday's development came just a day after Israel's Cabinet appointed a commission of inquiry to examine the decision-making process behind the 34-day conflict in Lebanon. The Cabinet decision falls short of demands by many Israelis for a state commission of inquiry that would have the authority to recommend the dismissal of senior officials for their conduct of the war.