Reproduction photo: Hagai Aharon
Eldad Regev
Reproduction photo: Hagai Aharon
Ehud Golwasser

Arab media say Israel-Hizbullah prisoner exchange deal expected in coming days

Lebanese newspapers report return of Regev, Goldwasser in exchange for Samir Kuntar imminent; Israeli official said to meet German mediator to hear Hizbullah's answer to Israel's 'final offer'

While Jerusalem awaits developments that may lead to a possible prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah, Arab media reported Monday that a deal in which kidnapped Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev would be returned to Israel in exchange for Samir Kuntar and four other Lebanese prisoners is expected to be carried out in the next few days.


Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar said the deal may materialize this coming Tuesday or Friday, while As-Safir reported that it will take place sometime between the 20th and the 25th of June.  


Ofer Dekel, the official charged by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with dealing with the issue of the kidnapped soldiers, reportedly met Sunday with German mediator Gerhard Konrad to receive Hizbullah's answer to Israel's offer.


However, the Dekel-Konrad meeting has not been confirmed, and Olmert has yet to schedule meetings with Goldwasser and Regev's families, leading some officials to estimate that an exchange deal has not been finalized as of yet.


Regev and Goldwasser were captured by Hizbullah terrorists during a cross-border raid on July 12, 2006.


The Israeli proposal to release Kuntar and four other Lebanese prisoners in exchange for Goldwasser and Regev is considered Israel's "final offer".


Zvi Regev, father of Eldad Regev, told Israel Radio "We had a meeting with Ofer Dekel and he briefed us, not on the details, but he told us in general terms that there is about to be a deal." He said the meeting with Dekel was two weeks ago.


But Regev's brother Benny later cautioned against expecting the imminent return of Eldad or fellow captive Ehud Goldwasser.


"My father was not being accurate," he told Reuters. "We understand that we are in the direction of a deal. That's not to say it is a deal right now."


In another sign suggesting the possibility of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hizbullah, about two weeks ago the Shiite group transferred to Israel the remains of a number of IDF soldiers who were killed during the Second Lebanon War after in exchange for the release of Nissim Nasser.


In addition, Olmert has scheduled a meeting with the family of Ron Arad, the IAF navigator who abandoned his Phantom jet over Lebanon in 1986 and whose fate has since remained unknown .


Olmert is expected to tell the Arad family that Israel is considering releasing Kuntar in the framework of a prisoner swap. Israel has said in the past that Kuntar would be released only in exchange for information on Arad's fate.


Kuntar was jailed in the Hadarim Prison 29 years ago after murdering Danny Haran, his four-year-old daughter Einat and two police officers during a terror attack on the northern city of Nahariya.


A prisoner exchange deal will likely not take place before Olmert meets with members of the Haran, Regev and Goldwasser families. An Israeli official said "the ball is in Hizbullah's hands".


Roee Nahmias contributed to the report 


פרסום ראשון: 06.16.08, 11:51
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