Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Mofaz Confirms Swap Talks with Hizb'allah
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz confirmed Tuesday that "significant" indirect contacts have been made with Hizb'Allah through German mediators over a prisoner exchange for three kidnapped Israeli soldiers, but played down reports of an imminent deal.
"The contact is very important in order to start the process of negotiations and bring the boys home," Mofaz said yesterday after briefing the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee. Reports from Lebanon say a senior German security official is in Beirut working out a prisoner swap within the next 10 days, but Mofaz said a deal for the return of the three soldiers is still long off.
In a breaking development this evening, Hizb'Allah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah also confirmed negotiations with Israel, via German intermediaries, over an exchange of captives. However, Nasrallah said that there is no basis to reports of an imminent deal and added that while Hizb'Allah wants the negotiations to succeed, it will not compromise on its steep demands, including the release of all Lebanese and Palestinian captives in Israel. He also demanded to receive the bodies of Lebanese buried in Israel and information about Lebanese MIAs. He said that if Israel accedes to these terms, a deal could implemented tomorrow.
A newspaper owned by Lebanese President Rafik al-Hariri reported Wednesday that an exchange would take place in two stages. In the first stage, the three soldiers - Omar Sawayid, Avraham Binyamin and Adi Avitan - would be exchanged for 14 Lebanese jailed in Israel, including militant Islamic leaders Mustapha Dirani of Amal and Sheikh Abdel-Karim Obeid of Hizb'Allah. In the second stage, kidnapped Israeli civilian Elhanan Tanenbaum would be swapped for the remaining five jailed Lebanese.
Hariri's newspaper also reported that the three Israeli soldiers are alive, but that their health is deteriorating as a result of wounds suffered during the October abductions along the Israeli-Lebanese border, ISRAEL RADIO said. The report said the three Israelis have undergone surgery and other medical treatment. Mofaz said the IDF does not yet know the condition of the captives.
Other reports indicate that Palestinian elements are lobbying Hizb'Allah to also demand the release of all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails as part of the exchange.
Meanwhile, Dirani and Obeid appeared in an Israeli court on Tuesday which was considering a petition for their release from administrative detention; their sentence was renewed for six more months. Part of the evidence reviewed was a letter from Obeid - the former Hizb'Allah spiritual leader and operations officer in southern Lebanon - sent to his son and broadcast on Hizb'Allah television recently. Obeid told his son to "bless and kiss the hands of Jihad fighters who successfully captured three of the enemy, and send them my best."
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.