Israel: Snatched soldiers alive so long as no information otherwise

Israel Materials 17 February 2008 12:30 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- Israel believes two reserve soldiers captured by Hezbollah guerrillas on the border with Lebanon in July 2006 are still alive, so long as there is no definite information on their fate, Israel Radio reported Sunday, quoting "a political official."

The unnamed official was responding to a report in the German Der Speigel magazine which said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intends publically declaring Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev "dead."

Ehud Goldwasser's wife, Carmit, told Israel Radio Saturday night that her family, and Regev's, do not comment on assessments by foreign reporters, and receive updates only from official sources in Israel.

Hezbollah's snatching of Goldwasser and Regev on July 12, 2006, sparked Israel's inconclusive 33-day war with Hezbollah. Olmert declared the soldiers' return one of the aims of the conflict, but the fighting ended without this being achieved.

Since the war, Hezbollah has not given any sign that the two reservists are still alive.

According to Der Spiegel, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has refused in secret negotiations to give information on the soldiers so long as Israel refuses to release Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar from prison.

Kuntar has been serving a 534-year jail sentence for his role in a 1979 attack to protest the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, in which he shot a father in the back in front of his daughter, then smashed the girl's head against a rock. Two Israeli policemen and two of Kuntar's unit were also killed in the raid.