Talks with Israel soon: Hizbollah
BAALBEK: Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said late on Saturday his group was closer than ever to resolving the fate of Lebanese detainees held in Israeli jails.
“I will speak a few words about the detainees... This file will be concluded, God willing,” Nasrallah said, according to a Hizbollah transcript of the remarks faxed to Reuters on Sunday.
“Today we are closer than at any time in the past to this result,” he said at the opening of a hospital in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, a Hizbollah stronghold.
Nasrallah did not say how the issue would be resolved or whether it would include a prisoner swap with the Jewish state. Four Israelis are held by the Shi’ite Muslim guerrilla group, which helped force Israeli forces out of south Lebanon in 2000 to end a 22-year occupation.
Nasrallah told the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan last week that stalled talks with Israel over a prisoner swap could resume soon.
Tensions between Israel and Hizbollah have surged since Nasrallah threatened late last month to capture more Israelis unless there was a breakthrough in the prisoner swap talks.
Hizbollah seized three Israeli soldiers in a disputed border area in October 2000, months after Israel’s pullout. Weeks later the Syrian and Iranian-backed group said it had captured reserve officer Elhanan Tenenbaum, who it said was a Mossad agent.
Hizbollah has long campaigned to free about 15 Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails.
After it seized the Israeli soldiers it also began demanding the release of Palestinians. With German mediation, it has sporadically negotiated for a possible swap for Lebanese and other Arab detainees held in Israel. —Reuters