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

Israel, Hizbullah close to prisoner swap, Lebanese official says

Government official appointed to oversee prisoner exchange negotiations with Hizbullah calls meeting with parents of kidnapped soldiers Regev, Goldwasser to brief them on burgeoning deal. Lebanese source says 'two sides putting final touches on exchange deal'; Jerusalem official says swap deal 'won’t happen tonight or tomorrow'

A Lebanese political source said on Wednesday that Hizbullah and Israel are putting the final touches on an agreement to exchange prisoners.


"The two sides are putting the final touches on the swap deal," the source said. "There are some minor details that must be completed and afterwards logistical preparations would be needed."


The source, who requested anonymity, said it would take at least 10 days before the swap happens. He gave no further details.


However, an official in Jerusalem familiar with the negotiations on the prisoner exchange deal told Ynet that "it will take time. It won’t happen tonight or tomorrow.


"The families have been briefed with the details and that’s all that we can say at the moment,” he said.


Earlier it was reported that a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hizbullah may be closer than ever before as the families of kidnapped IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were summoned to the government's main offices in Tel Aviv to be briefed on the latest developments on Wednesday.


Ofer Dekel, the representative on behalf of the Prime Minister's Office's in the efforts to secure the release of Israel's captive soldiers, recently returned from a trip to Germany, which is acting as the mediator in the negotiations, and immediately called the families in.


Dekel reportedly left for Germany on Sunday, where he met with German mediator Gerhard Konrad, who was said to relay Hizbullah's final answer to the proposed Israeli deal.


Foreign media reported extensively on what was described as an 'imminent deal.' As part of the agreement, Israel would release several Lebanese prisoners, including Samir Kuntar, in exchange for Regev and Goldwasser. Kuntar is considered Israel's strongest bargaining chip for MIA navigator Ron Arad.


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was scheduled to meet with Arad's family and tell them Israel has concluded Hizbullah does not have any additional information pertaining to Arad's fate that could be exchanged. However the meeting never took place.


The only thing hindering the deal between Israel and Hizbullah remains the matter of the Lebanese prisoners.


Israel has so far reportedly refused to meet Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's demands.


Reuters contributed to the report 


פרסום ראשון: 06.18.08, 15:45
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