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Israel, Hezbollah complete swap

The five were released in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, captured on July 12, 2006.

world Updated: Jul 16, 2008 21:51 IST

Five Lebanese prisoners freed on Wednesday by the Israeli authorities, among them triple murderer Samir Kantar, have crossed into Lebanon, a Hezbollah official said.

“The prisoners are now on Lebanese territory,” the official said.

The prisoners were brought across the border in a convoy of four International Committee of the Red Cross vehicles and were greeted by Hezbollah’s chief prisoner swap negotiator, Wafiq Safa.

Kantar and the other four — Khaled Zidan, Maher Kurani, Mohammed Sarur and Hussein Suleiman — were the last remaining Lebanese prisoners in Israeli custody.

Kantar, the longest serving Arab prisoner in Israel, who was sentenced to five life terms for the 1979 triple murder, was wearing a grey sweatshirt and jeans as he descended a vehicle to embrace crowds of wellwishers.

Kantar’s mother was shown on television embracing the freed man’s brother and crying tears of joy as she awaited him at Beirut airport where all five prisoners are expected to be flown.

They were to be welcomed there later on Wednesday by Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Families of the prisoners at the airport cheered and applauded at the news that the men had arrived on Lebanese soil.

The five were released in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, captured on July 12, 2006.