Israel-Hezbollah prisoner swap set for this week: report

July 7th, 2008 - 2:39 am ICT by IANS  

Ramallah/Tel Aviv, July 7 (DPA) The expected prisoner swap between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement will be carried out in three stages beginning Thursday, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported Sunday evening, citing “informed Palestinian sources”. There was no official confirmation of the report from any other source. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech last week that he expected the swap to start “around July 15 or shortly afterwards and continue for a few days”.

Under the deal, Israel will exchange Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese jailed in 1979 for killing four Israelis during an attack on the coastal town of Nahariya, several living and dead Hezbollah guerrilla’s, and an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners, in exchange for two Israeli soldiers snatched by Hezbollah during the July 12, 2006 cross-border raid which sparked that summer’s Lebanon war.

Israel, which has received no word on the condition of the soldiers since they were snatched, believes they may be dead.

In an indication the exchange may be imminent, Major-General Gabi Eizenkot, the Israeli army officer in charge implementing the swap declared a cemetery where the bodies of enemy fighters are buried to be a “closed military zone”, the Jerusalem Post daily reported.

Soldiers have begun clearing weeds and bushes that have grown over the graves, and on Friday members of the army’s Rabbinate unit, who will have to exhume the bodies, received emergency call up orders. However, the orders for the exhumations have yet to be given.

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