Middle East

Israel Releases Prisoners In Swap With Hezbollah

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Israeli officials freed five Hezbollah militants on Wednesday as part of a deal in which they received the bodies of two soldiers captured and killed by the militant group in 2006.

The move included the controversial release of Samir Kantar, who had been serving multiple life terms in Israel for a grisly 1979 attack.

Kantar arrived in the coastal border town of Naqoura in southern Lebanon shortly after his release.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli defense officials said they had positively identified the remains of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev after they were turned over by the militant group. The DNA verification of their identities was a condition for Israel turning over the five prisoners to Hezbollah.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a statement that his nation paid a heavy price for the bodies of soldiers. The families of the soldiers said they are grieving but there is also relief that the uncertainty of the past two years is over.

The swap — mediated by a U.N.-appointed German official who shuttled between the sides for 18 months — closes a painful chapter for Israel, which launched a war against Hezbollah in response to the soldiers' capture in a cross-border raid.



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