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Rabin: Israel Won’t Ransom Four Hostages Kidnapped by Shiites

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared Sunday that Israel would have no part in ransoming four hostages–three Americans and an Indian national — kidnapped by Shiite extremists in Lebanon.

The kidnappers said Sunday the four would be killed unless Israel release 400 Palestinian prisoners within one week and places them on a Red Cross plane for Damascus.

Rabin said Israel had received no formal demand from any group and that he had learned of the ultimatum from the media. He identified the kidnappers as the Hezbullah, a pro-Iranian Shiite terrorist group in Lebanon. Foreign media reports said the demand was made by a group calling itself the “Islamic Jihad (holy war) for the Liberation of Palestine.”

“Israel will not be the international bank of prisoners to which any terror group can apply for a price to be paid for hostages in their possession,” Rabin said on an Army Radio interview.

The four hostages, all professors at Beirut University College in west Beirut, are Americans Jesse Turner, Robert Polhill and Alan Steen; and Mithileshwar Singh, a national of India who holds a U.S. resident’s permit. They were seized by gunmen on the west Beirut campus a week ago. They are among 26 foreigners missing and believed to have been kidnapped in Lebanon.

Israeli sources said there has been no request from the U.S. for Israel to help obtain the release of the American hostages, nor was any expected. One Israeli official who was not identified noted, “We have a position on principle that there should be no dealing with terrorists.”

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