The dust has settled, the rocket launchers have cooled, and the television cameras have gone home, but more reminders of the stakes in Israel's recent battle against Hezbollah in Lebanon keep pouring in. The latest is the news, first reported by Fox, that Mohammed Ali Hamadi has rejoined Hezbollah. Membership in a terrorist organization is old hat for Hamadi, who spent 18 years in a German prison for his role in the 1985 hijacking of Trans World Airlines Flight 847 and the concomitant brutal murder of an American Navy sailor, Robert Dean Stethem, who was aboard that plane and who behaved heroically prior to being killed.
Hamadi and his accomplices got away in the immediate aftermath of that hijacking, but the terrorist was apprehended at the Frankfurt airport in 1987 carrying explosives, apparently in connection with yet another terrorist plot in which he had entangled himself. Whatever else his all-too-brief sojourn in a German prison taught him, it does not appear to have reformed him. Upon his release, in the dark of a December night last year and apparently in exchange for the release of a German hostage in Iraq, Hamadi returned to Lebanon to live with his brother, also a convicted terrorist. The only discernible surprise about Hamadi's decision to rejoin Hezbollah is that it took him so long. "Terrorism is the Hamadi family business. It's what they do," is how a member of the Stethem family, Katherine Curtis Stethem, puts it to us.
This latest twist in the Hamadi saga highlights the recidivism rate of dangerous terrorists. When we first visited the case in these columns in December, we were offended at the injustice of Hamadi's early release. Now he has reminded us that it's not merely a question of justice but of safety. A released terrorist stands an excellent chance of trying to terrorize again. If Hamadi's freeing and his subsequent dalliances with Hezbollah do nothing else, they underscore the need for American authorities to go into Lebanon and seize him.
In theory, America remains committed to haling Hamadi before a court here to answer for the outrage he committed against an American serviceman, according to statements issued by the State Department periodically since Hamadi's release in December. Hamadi's re-entry into the world of Hezbollah indicates that doing so would not merely be a matter of obtaining justice at long last for Robert Dean Stethem and his family. It would be a matter of self-preservation in the face of a die-hard terrorist, and a matter of some urgency. And the whole saga is a lesson for Congress as it debates what to do about the terrorists being held at Guantanamo.
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