Israeli cabinet ratifies Hezbollah swap deal

By Xinhua,

Jerusalem : Israeli cabinet on Tuesday ratified the prisoners swap deal with Hezbollah that will take place on Wednesday.

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The swap is expected to begin on 9 a.m. (0600 GMT) Wednesday at the Rosh Hanikra Lebanon-Israel border crossing.

In the framework of the deal which was approved by a majority of the 25 ministers, Hezbollah will return the two abducted Israeli reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in exchange for five imprisoned Lebanese militants, including the killer Samir Kuntar, and the remains of some 200 Arabs.

Only three minister voted against the deal.

Before the deal can be completed, Israeli President Shimon Peres must first pardon Samir Kuntar and the four Hezbollah prisoners.

The cabinet also decided that efforts to uncover additional information regarding the fate of the missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad would continue.

Prior to the cabinet meeting, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Trade Minister Eli Yishai urged the government to approve the deal, regardless of the report on Arad.

“The cabinet must ratify the prisoner exchange deal today and bring our sons home,” Yishai, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, was quoted by the website of local daily Ha’aretz as saying.

“I am sure that if it were possible to return Ron Arad, the Goldwasser and Regev families would not prevent it. …It must be approved immediately,” he said.

Meanwhile, he stressed that the Israeli government must continue to do everything in its ability to find out what happened to discover the fate of Arad.

The swap deal was approved by Israeli government in principle about two weeks ago, under the condition that Hezbollah submits the report on Arad.

Hezbollah transferred to Israel days ago an 80-page report on the fate of Arad, who was shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and held by the Amal Shi’ite group until the night of May 4, 1988, when he disappeared.

The report obtained from Hezbollah included photographs of Aradand journal entries written by him – but was deemed by the defense establishment as “insufficient.”