The final go-ahead has been given by Israel’s cabinet, to a prisoner swap with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, though Ehud Olmert (photo, from rfi.fr), Israeli prime minister, said that the Shia group had not fully kept its side of the bargain.
The stage of the exchance has been set on Tuesday, by the cabinet’s decision. It is expected to take place during the following day.
“The government ratified the accord”, said Eli Yishai, deputy prime minister, after the cabinet meeting.
Five Lebanese prisoners will be released by Israel, as part of the deal, including a man convicted of a 1979 triple murder, in exchange for two soldiers captured by Hezbollah in a deadly cross-border raid in 2006.
Even though the two Israeli soldiers are widely believed to be dead, their families have never been told their fate.
The swap deal was first approved by the cabinet in June, but was then asked to back it a second time, because Israel received a report from Hezbollah concerning Ron Arab, a missing Israeli air force pilot.
Since 1986, when his fighter jet was shot down over Lebanon during the civil war, Mr Arad’s fate has also been unknown, and although the report said he was probably dead, Israel has rejected its findings.
On Monday, though the Arad report was one of the conditions for the prisoner swap to go ahead, Ehud Olmert called it “completely inadequate”.
Before the cabinet meeting, Avi Dichter, the public security minister, had said that the deal would be approved.
“Anyone familiar with the facts knew very well that the Hezbollah report would not provide a conclusive answer on the fate of Ron Arad”, he told army radio.
The bodies of 199 Hezbollah and Palestinian fighters are also included in the exchange, which is expected to be carried out on Wednesday, by the Red Cross at the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Only three of the 25 cabinet minsters present at Tuesday’s meeting voted against the deal, said David Baker, a spokesman for the Israeli government.