The Lebanese resistance movement Hizbullah on July 16 swapped the bodies of two Israeli soldiers with five Lebanese prisoners and the remains of hundreds of fighters, in a landmark deal. “Today we hand over Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev,” Hizbullah official Wafiq Safa said at the Naqura border crossing between Lebanon and Israel as men placed two black coffins of the Israeli soldiers on the ground amid a crowd of onlookers.
The bodies of the two soldiers, seized in a cross-border raid into Israel in July 2006, were handed over to the International Committee Red Cross under the UN-mediated swap. In return, Israel turned the bodies of 12 fighters, including the body of Dalal al-Maghrebi, a female fighter with the Palestinian Fatah movement. Israel is also to transfer to Lebanon the remains of 199 Palestinian and Arab fighters exhumed over the past week. After few hours, in the last phase of the swap, Israel handed the five Lebanese prisoners, who were the last reaming Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails. Lebanon declared a national holiday to mark the swap, after which Israel will hold no more Hizbullah fighters. In Lebanon, a mood of celebration welcomed the prisoners and the fighters’ bodies.