UN welcomes humanitarian exchange between Israel and Hezbollah

Israel Materials 17 October 2007 12:38 (UTC +04:00)

( RIA Novosti ) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the exchange of hostages between Israel and Lebanon, the first since the end of the 34-day military conflict in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

"The Secretary-General welcomes the exchange of humanitarian gestures by Israel and Hezbollah mediated by his facilitator. He sincerely hopes that this move will create the necessary dynamics on both sides to comply with the central humanitarian demands of Security Council resolution 1701," the official statement said.

On Monday, Israel received the body of a drowned 27-year-old Israeli in exchange for a Hezbollah prisoner and the bodies of two Lebanese militants killed last summer.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the exchange "an additional step in the framework of negotiations" for the return of two Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, kidnapped by the Lebanon-based Islamist group Hezbollah in 2006.

Their capture led to subsequent Israeli military operations against Lebanon in late July-early August 2006. The conflict claimed the lives of over 1,000 Lebanese civilians, forced nearly a quarter of the country's population to flee, and demolished some 100 bridges and 60 highways. About 160 Israelis also died.

The UN Secretary-General called on all the sides to "move ahead decisively in releasing the two abducted Israeli soldiers without any further delay and to find the necessary solutions for the remaining Lebanese citizens still in Israeli detention."

Hezbollah and Israel last engaged in a prisoner exchange in 2004, when Israel set free more than 400 Lebanese and other Arab detainees for an Israeli businessman and the remains of three of its soldiers.