Israel frees Lebanese detainee in exchange of soldiers body parts

Published June 1st, 2008 - 09:50 GMT

Lebanese citizen Nassim Nisr on Sunday returned to Lebanon from Israel as Hizbullah announced the handing over of Israeli body parts to ICRC. Nisr who spent six years in Israeli jails, was released Sunday morning from the Nitzan (Ramle) Prison in Ramallah. Escorted by ICRC personnel, Nisr arrived in south Lebanon through the Naqura crossing where he received a warm welcome from thousands of people. Political, military and Hizbullah figures also attended the welcome ceremony.


Hizbullah official Wafiq Safa announced the release of the Israeli soldiers' remains from the 2006 war upon the arrival of Nisr.  "We today are handing over some of the remains of a number of Israeli soldiers who were killed in the July war and who the Israeli army left in Lebanon," Safa said. The bodies, held inside a box, were placed in an ICRC vehicle. 


Earlier this year, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said his group had body parts of Israeli soldiers killed in Lebanon during the 2006 conflict. He said they had the "heads, the hands, the feet and even a nearly intact cadaver" in a speech he gave in Beirut.
Nisr is a former Jew who converted to Islam and moved to Israel from Lebanon. He was sentenced to six years in prison in 2002 after he was convicted of providing information to Hizbullah.
His prison term has recently ended, but the Israeli security establishment considered holding onto him as a bargaining chip in the indirect negotiations between Israel and Hizbullah – and he has been held under administrative arrest at the Nitzan Detention Center. 
Last week, sources reported progress in the UN-mediated negotiations, saying that the German mediator Gerhard Konrad had met with members of Hizbullah and that a breakthrough was near. However Israeli security authorities and the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office have said Nisr's handover is not connected to any future prisoner exchange.
Nisr left Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of 1982 and joined his mother's family in Israel, where he settled near Tel Aviv. Nisr's brother Mohammed said Nessim had told him in a phone call a month ago that "his jailers had placed him in solitary confinement in a bid to persuade him to abandon his plans to return to Lebanon with his two daughters, who are Israeli citizens."

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