Hizbullah spy deported to Lebanon

 

Hizbullah today released the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in its 2006 war with Israel, which let go a Lebanese man who had completed a jail term on charges of spying for the Islamist group.

It was not immediately clear whether the sides' had struck a deal to secure the exchange. Lebanese political sources said last Monday that indirect talks between Israel and Hezbollah over a broader prisoner exchange had made major progress.

Nissim Nasser, released after a six-year jail term, was greeted by Hizbullah officials in the southern village of Naqoura, where the group unexpectedly announced the release of the soldiers' remains.

"We today are handing over some of the remains of a number of Israeli soldiers who were killed in the July war and who the Israeli army left in Lebanon," Hizbullah security official Wafik Safa said upon Nasser's arrival.

His release had raised speculation of progress in German mediation efforts to secure the broader prisoner swap, which would include two soldiers captured in a raid along the border in 2006 that touched off the 34-day conflict.

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in a speech last week, reiterated his vow that all Lebanese prisoners, including the long-held Samir Qantar, would be released soon.

Israel holds about 10 Lebanese, including Qantar, widely seen as key to any deal with Hizbullah on returning the two soldiers. Hizbullah has refused to say whether the two men are dead or alive.

Nasser, who was born in Lebanon to a Jewish mother and a Muslim father, was sentenced in 2002 to six years' imprisonment after being convicted of spying for Hizbullah.

Hizbullah fighters, supporters and officials gathered in the southern village of Naqoura for a rally to welcome him home.

Qantar, 46, took part in a 1979 raid that killed two Israeli men and a four-year-old girl.

In October, Israel and Hizbullah exchanged the remains of an Israeli civilian for a captive Hizbullah fighter and the bodies of two other Lebanese fighters killed in the 2006 war.

Reuters