JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel’s cabinet on Sunday approved the release of five Palestinian prisoners, a final step in a UN-brokered prisoner exchange with the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, a top government official said.
The mostly symbolic action will see the release of five Palestinians convicted on minor charges and who were already due for release soon. None was implicated in deadly attacks on Israelis, the official told AFP.
The release of an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners was part of an agreement concluded last month that saw Israel trade five Lebanese prisoners and the remains of some 200 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers whose capture sparked the 2006 Lebanon war.
One of the Lebanese prisoners freed was Samir Kantar, Israel’s longest-serving Arab prisoner, who was convicted of killing three civilians, including a four-year-old girl, in a grisly 1979 raid on northern Israel.
The prisoner exchange was celebrated across Lebanon as a victory for the Shiite Hezbollah but deeply mourned in Israel, where the fate of the two soldiers was not known until their black coffins arrived at the border.