Israel rejects report on transfer of two soldiers from Lebanon to Iran
Two Israeli troops captured by Lebanon's Shiite movement Hizbullah in 2006 have been handed to Iran and could be freed in a German-brokered deal, an Arabic newspaper reported on Sunday. Asharq Al-Awsat quoted a source identified as a high-ranking official in the office of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying they had been transferred by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
"The operation to transfer the two Israeli soldiers to (a country) outside Lebanon and then to Iran was executed by a special unit belonging to the Al-Quds Legion," the source said, according to London-based Saudi-owned paper.
According to the source, the operation was led by a general he identified as Al-Quds chief Qassem Sulaimani, who he claimed was based in Lebanon with other high-ranking Guards officers during the Lebanon war between Israel and Hizbullah last year. The source claimed that the soldiers could be part of an exchange involving Germany, which decided last week to release an Iranian agent jailed for life for the 1992 murder of four Kurdish dissidents.
"The content of the deal is being kept under tight secrecy this time, as it is related to the fate of the two Israeli soldiers," he was quoted as saying.
However, a senior Israeli government official dismissed the report as "nonsense" and said it was an "attempt to dissiminate disinformation on this extremely sensitive issue." He said that negotiations to secure their release were being held through the mediation of the United Nations and Germany.