Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday evening that a prisoner exchange was the only way to win the release of two captured Israeli soldiers, who he said were being held in a "secure and remote" location. "No military operation will return them," Nasrallah told a news conference in Beirut. "The prisoners will not be returned except through one way: indirect negotiations and a trade."
Nasrallah said he was open to a package deal in which the two Israeli soldiers as well as another one captured in Gaza Strip will be released. "The capture of the two soldiers could provide a solution to the Gaza crisis ... Now that one (held in Gaza) plus two (held by Hizbullah) makes three," Nasrallah stated.
"We have no objection that there is a Lebanese-Palestinian effort to get out of the crisis," Nasrallah said. "The prisoners will not be returned except through one way -- indirect negotiations and an exchangr," he said.
Nasrallah did not specify whose freedom he demanded in exchange for the Israelis -- three Lebanese men held by Israel, or some of the more than 8,000 Palestinian prisoners. But speaking to the Lebanese prisoners, Nasrallah said: "You are now on the road to freedom."
Nasrallah dubbed the operation in which the Israeli soldiers were captured as "Truthful Promise."
He warned that his party was ready to fight, but was open to any cease-fire proposal. "We have no intention to escalate," he added.
Nasrallah said the raid would serve to ease the pressure on the Palestinians in Gaza Strip. "The timing, no doubt, provides support for our brothers in Palestine," he said.