Hezbollah spy arrives in Lebanon after release from Israel

Convicted Hezbollah spy Nassim Nisr was was released Sunday from an Israeli jail and arrived at the Israeli- Lebanon border crossing at Naquora accompanied by officials of the International committee of the Red Cross, dpa reported.

Nisr, who served a six-year-term for espionage in Israel, was handed over to the Lebanese army intelligence, who will then hand him over to Hezbollah official Wafik Safa.

At the same time, Safa disclosed that Hezbollah had handed over to the Red Cross the remains of Israeli soldiers who were killed in the July 2006 war in Lebanon. The remains were contained in a brown wooden box and were handed over after Nisr's release.

Nisr will receive an official ceremony at his village Bazoriyeh in southern Lebanon and will deliver a speech, according to Hezbollah officials in the area.

His release was described by Hezbollah as the first phase of a larger prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

Nisr, who was born in Lebanon to a Jewish mother and a Shiite Muslim father, emigrated to Israel in 1991.

Accused of espionage in 2002, he signed a plea bargain in which he admitted he passed information to a senior Hezbollah official and, the Ha'aretz daily reported, was also found to have photographed and amassed information on potential gas and electrical facilities to be used as targets for Hezbollah.

"I have been waiting for him for 17 years," Nisr's mother Valentine told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "The whole village will celebrate my son's return."

Yellow Hezbollah flags covered the streets of the village and pictures of Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah who hails from the same village of Nisr.

Nasrallah said last week that all Lebanese prisoners will be home soon, including the longest-held Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntart.

Kuntar has been in prison since 1979, when he headed a terrorist attack in Nahariya that led to the death of a policeman as well as a man and his two young daughters.

The release of Nisr comes amid conflicting reports about whether a deal was taking shape in which two Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, were to be exchanged in return for Kuntar, four Hezbollah prisoners, and the remains of 10 Hezbollah men killed in clashes during the 33-day Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006.

Israeli officials have denied that Nisr's release was part of a deal between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

According to reports, swap negotiations were being led by German negiotiators. The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot on Friday cited a German mediator as saying he assumed that the two Israeli soldiers seized by the Shiite group in 2006 were no longer alive.

The mediator, Gerhard Konrad, has told the Israeli government that he believed Hezbollah was not holding any live soldiers, only dead bodies, the newspaper said.

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