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Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Israel charges Hezbollah fighters
Israeli troops
Israeli troops are thought to have seized about a dozen Hezbollah men
Israeli prosecutors have filed criminal charges against three Hezbollah fighters captured during the recent conflict in Lebanon, officials say.

The men will be tried for murder and membership of a terrorist organisation, said justice ministry officials.

Correspondents say the charges reflect Israel's refusal to view Hezbollah as a legitimate fighting force, to be treated under established laws of war.

The accused are named as Mohammed Srur, Maher Hourani and Hussein Suleiman.

In a separate development, an Israeli military court deferred a decision on whether a group of detained Palestinian politicians from the militant group Hamas should be released on bail.

Jerusalem police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Mr Suleiman, 22, was charged with participating in an attack on an army post on 12 July.

That was the day on which Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in a cross-border raid, sparking Israel's 34-day offensive against Lebanon.

M Srur, 20, and Mr Hourani, 30, also participated in attacks against soldiers along the border, Mr Rosenfeld said.

Access

The indictment was submitted by police at the district court in the northern Israeli town of Nazareth.

Israel is believed to have captured about 12 Hezbollah fighters during the fighting in July and August.

The Red Cross has interviewed three captured Lebanese and urged Israel to declare how many guerrillas it is holding in its jails. It has also called on Hezbollah to allow access to the two captured Israeli soldiers.

Hezbollah wants to negotiate a prisoner swap to release all Lebanese detainees in Israel, one of whom has spent 28 years in custody after being captured during a cross-border attack in 1979.

Israel, backed by UN resolution 1701, has demanded the unconditional release of its two soldiers.

Hamas detainees

A military court at the Ofer base in the West Bank initially ordered the release of a group of politicians from the Palestinian movement Hamas several days ago.

Israeli military prosecutors have appealed against the release, and the court was due to issue its decision on Monday.

The judge did not say when he would announce his ruling.

The defendants, who include the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Aziz Dweik, are accused of being members of a terrorist organisation.

The Palestinian government says Israel's detention of the men is illegal and aimed at toppling the Hamas-led administration in the Palestinian territories.


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