Hizbollah hands over Israeli troop remains as Lebanese spy is freed

A prisoner convicted of spying for Hizbollah was released to Lebanon by Israel yesterday as the guerrilla group handed over what it said were the remains of dead Israeli soldiers.

The cross-border moves raised speculation that Israel could be preparing to trade other prisoners for the two soldiers – whether dead or alive – whose abduction triggered the 2006 Lebanon war.

The Hizbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, predicted last week that Israel would soon free Lebanese prisoners including Samir Kuntar, who is serving multiple life sentences for murdering four Israelis – including a 28-year-old civilian and his four-year-old daughter – in 1979.

In Beirut, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, who has been mediating between the two enemies, said he was happy with yesterday's developments and that he hoped "these preliminary steps have created a positive dynamism in these secret talks".

The man released yesterday and driven from a jail in central Israel to the border town of Rosh Hanikra was Nasim Nisr, an Israeli of Lebanese descent who had already served a six-year sentence for espionage and was being held in administrative detention, possibly as a bargaining chip.

The 39-year-old prisoner was shown live on Lebanese TV arriving at the southern village of Naqoura and hugging weeping relatives, including his mother, a Lebanese Jew who converted to Islam. He briefly praised Mr Nasrallah and said he hoped other Lebanese prisoners would be released. Because of his Jewish descent, Mr Nisr, whose father was a Shia Muslim, qualified for Israeli citizenship, and had moved to Israel in 1991.

The box of remains released by Hizbollah was checked by the Israeli military for booby traps before being transported to the Abu Kabir forensic laboratory in Tel Aviv for evaluation. The Israeli authorities insisted that the release of the remains was unexpected and had not been co-ordinated by them with Hizbollah.

Israel has not confirmed plans for a swap of other Lebanese prisoners for Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the two soldiers abducted and, it later turned out, seriously injured in Hizbollah's cross-border raid in July 2006. Hizbollah has not provided any proof that the two soldiers are still alive.

A swap involving Kuntar would be politically sensitive in Israel because of the notoriety of the 1979 killings in Nahariya. He was convicted of killing the child by smashing her head against rocks and then hitting it with a rifle butt. The girl's mother accidentally smothered her other daughter, aged two, to death while trying to keep her silent as they hid during the attack.

An editorial in Haaretz before yesterday's events warned that an exchange of prisoners including Kuntar for the two Israeli soldiers would mark a "complete victory for Nasrallah" over Ehud Olmert's government.

The newspaper said that this "bitter pill" could be swallowed if the two soldiers were alive but that the "price" must be lower if the two men were dead. "Israel must not release prisoners for bodies, thus encouraging more abductions," it said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Housing Minister, Zeev Boim, announced fresh plans to build nearly 900 new homes in Pisgat Zeev and Har Homa, Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, despite the urgings of the US against such expansion on the Palestinian side of the 1967 border.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "Israel talks about peace while at the same time works on undermining peace by increasing settlement activity in Jerusalem and around it."

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

English Teacher- Manchester

£19200 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes