JERUSALEM (Jan. 1)
Israeli officials expressed outrage Wednesday over the reported “execution” of three Lebanese Jews held hostage by an extremist Shiite group.
The hostages were identified as Yehuda Youssef Benesti, 33, Henri Menn, and Elie Srour, 68. Benesti, kidnapped from his home on May 11, 1985, was the brother of Ibrahim Benesti, kidnapped the same month, who was found shot to death last February 15.
Srour, an electrical engineer, was kidnapped on March 28, 1985. There was no information available on Menn whose name is not on the list of nine Jews kidnapped in Beirut in 1985-86, four of whom, including Benesti’s brother, were killed a year or more ago.
The Shiite group which claimed responsibility for the latest hostage murders identified itself as “The Organization of the Oppressed on Earth.”
It is believed to be linked to Hezbullah (Army of God), a pro-Iranian Shiite terrorist gang.
It announced the killings in a note delivered to the Beirut newspaper An Nahar early Wednesday and said they were in retaliation for an Israeli shelling of a Shiite village in south Lebanon.
No bodies have been found by Beirut police. The gang set conditions for return of the bodies which include “release of all strugglers in Zionist prisons” and “complete withdrawal” by Israel “from the border enclave in southern Lebanon.”
Israeli officials have refused to respond. The earlier known Jewish victims of Shiite kidnappers are Ibrahim Benesti, Haim Cohen, killed December 25, 1985, Isaac Tarab, killed January 1, 1986 and Dr. Elie Hallak, killed on February 1, 1986.