Israel in secret talks to release soldiers

Sunday, September 03, 2006 |  by Staff Writer
Israel is reportedly conducting covert talks for a deal to release the three kidnapped soldiers in exchange for Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.

These talks, which were intensified in the past few days, are being conducted by the Prime Minister’s special representative Ofer Dekel who is in charge of the negotiations to release the soldiers. Dekel has recently secretly visited Berlin, meeting with head of the German Secret Service Arnest Orlau before he left for Beirut. Dekel communicated to him that Israel will not negotiate with Hizballah, and that Israel will be willing to discuss the matter only after the soldiers are transferred to the hands of the Lebanese government, and a sign of life is shown.

Israel has reportedly agreed to release all Lebanese prisoners it is holding in its prisons, except for Samir Kuntar who murdered the Haran family in Naharyia in 1979. Israel is currently holding 27 Lebanese soldiers in its prisons. In addition Israel is willing to transfer all of the bodies of Hizballah terrorists it is holding.

The talks on the Palestinian front are being led by Egypt. Dekel also met with head of the Egyptian Secret Service Omar Suliman in Cairo. Israel is currently conducting talks regarding a deal to release 800 Palestinian prisoners in three phases: First, Gilad Shalit is to be released; second, the rest of the prisoners will be released by the end of this year; and finally Israel will release all of the prisoners that were arrested after Shalit’s kidnapping, including Parliament and government members of Hamas. Israel, however, is not willing to discuss the release of Marwan Bargouti.

Officials at the Prime Minister’s office refused to confirm these facts saying that there are ongoing negotiations in this matter, but there have been no breakthroughs yet.

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