Families of captured Israeli soldiers ask France for help

PARIS (Reuters) – The families of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbollah guerrillas appealed to the French government on Wednesday to use its contacts with Lebanon to help bring their sons home.

“France is the first place we chose to come because we think here we’ve got our best chance,” said Omri Avni whose son-in-law Ehud Goldwasser was captured in a raid by Hizbollah on July 12.

“Using diplomatic connections, formal or not formal, between France and the Lebanon government, they can help us to bring our sons back home,” he told a news conference in Paris.

 

“You have the connections with the Lebanese nation,” Malka Goldwasser, the soldier’s mother, said.

France has criticized Israel’s offensive on its former colony Lebanon, unleashed after the soldiers’ capture, but it has also called on Hizbollah to release the two men immediately.

Members of the Goldwasser family and the family of Eldad Regev, who was taken in the same incident, are due to meet French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and an official from President Jacques Chirac’s office on Thursday.

The father of Gilad Shalit, who was taken in a separate incident by Hamas militants and who has French citizenship, may also be present, according to officials from the Jewish group Siona, which helped organize the families’ visit to France.

“We have the feeling that here in France, we will be able to get support that we cannot get in Israel,” Avni said. “We need to know if they are OK, if they are healthy and if anyone can help us to bring them back home because the army cannot do it.”

Malka Goldwasser and the other families did not question the actions of the Israeli government and placed the blame for the 15-day-old crisis squarely with Hizbollah which has unleashed a stream of rocket attacks on northern Israel.

“We want to underline that those who are holding Eldad and Udi (Goldwasser’s nickname) and Gilad Shalit as well have no respect for accepted conventions,” said Eyal Regev, brother of Eldad Regev, speaking in Hebrew through a French interpreter.

“We have had no information on the condition of the soldiers or the state they’re in, and that’s why we’re asking the French government and the international community to help us.”

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