Israel and Hizbollah Still Negotiating on Prisoner Exchange
Negotiations for a prisoner exchange are still alive between the Lebanese Shiite movement Hizbollah and Israel, via German mediation, Hizbollah's second-in-command said Sunday.
Though the negotiations have not produced an agreement, Sheikh Naim Kassem told the Lebanese daily al-Mustaqbal that a German mediator "came to Beirut and then left, but continues to work on the case."
Kassem added that Hizbollah was waiting for responses following questions raised by his movement during the negotiations, but the Shiite official did not reveal what these points were, nor did he disclose the identity of the mediator.
Hizbollah considers any information on the health of the Israeli prisoners to be "an element of the negotiations and to have a price," he said.
"However, we have not yet received that price from the Israelis," he added.
Hizbollah, which spearheaded the struggle against Israel's 22-year occupation of Lebanon, captured three Israeli soldiers during an October 7 raid on an army post in the disputed Shebaa Farms border area.
Hizbollah announced October 18 that it had captured a fourth Israeli, who it said was a colonel working for his country's intelligence services. Israel has said he is only a businessman.
On Friday, government sources in Vienna announced that Austrian Defense Minister Herbert Scheibner has been acting as a mediator in talks on the fate of Lebanese detainees in Israel and Israeli soldiers held by the Hizbollah.
The UN and the International committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have repeatedly asked Hizbollah to give information on the Israeli prisoners' health and allow an ICRC official to visit them. So far negotiations have failed -- BEIRUT (AFP)
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