Israel frees five Palestinians in Hezbollah deal

A015280814.jpgHASHARON PRISON, Israel (Reuters) – Israel released five Palestinian prisoners on Wednesday as part of a swap deal with the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group that brought the bodies of two Israeli soldiers home.

Last month Israel freed five Lebanese prisoners and returned the bodies of nearly 200 Arab fighters. The two Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hezbollah cross-border raid that triggered a 34-day war in 2006.

The Israeli cabinet approved the release of the Palestinians earlier this week, marking the final stage of the swap. None of the five was involved in deadly attacks against Israelis, officials said.

Relatives met the freed prisoners, aged 14 to 17, at a crossing between Israel and the occupied West Bank outside the town of Tulkarm.

Zakariya Sharbaji, 16, thanked Hezbollah and the guerrilla group’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, for their release. He said he had spent 15 months behind bars.

Israeli media said the five had been jailed for minor offences, including throwing stones at Israelis.

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