Page last updated at 21:56 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 22:56 UK

In pictures: Mid-East prisoner swap

Red Cross officials receive the coffins of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser in Lebanon

In a day of mixed emotions in the Middle East, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers to the Red Cross as part of a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser

Israel confirmed the remains were those of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Their capture in 2006 sparked an Israeli invasion of Lebanon in which more than 1,125 Lebanese and 160 Israelis died.

Lorry carrying remains of Lebanese and Palestinian fighters heads to Israeli border

Israel also handed over the remains of 200 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters killed in northern Israel, as part of the deal.

Lebanese prisoners wait to be released

After verifying the identity of its soldiers' remains, Israel cleared the release of five Lebanese prisoners.

A Hezbollah militant rides on horse back in Naqoura, southern Lebanon, 16 July, 2008

In anticipation of the release, Lebanese celebrations were held both in Naqoura, near the border with Israel, and the capital Beirut.

Samir Qantar (c) waves as he arrives at Beirut International airport, Lebanon, 16 July, 2008

Among those freed was Samir Qantar, seen here waving at Beirut airport having changed into military fatigues. He was jailed in 1979 for murdering three people, including a four-year-old girl.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (R) gestures as he welcomes the released prisoners, including Samir Qantar, back to Lebanon

The event was given such significance that Hezbollah's reclusive leader, Hassan Nasrallah, made his first public appearance since September 2006 to welcome the released men home.

Hezbollah coffins

In more sombre scenes, meanwhile, Hezbollah prepared coffins for the remains of its fighters.

Mourner at home of Eldad Regev

In Israel, an army spokesperson described it as a tough and emotional day. The government said the unequal exchange had to happen because of its moral obligation to the families of the fallen soldiers.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak (L) and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (R) beside Karnit Goldwasser, the wife Ehud Goldwasser, praying over his coffin

For Karnit Goldwasser, seen here with Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert as she touches the coffin of her husband, the exchange finally brought closure after two years of waiting for news of his fate.

Shlomo Goldwasser, the father of captured Israeli soldier Ehud Goldwasser

But Ehud Goldwasser's father, Shlomo, criticised Hezbollah for making his family wait so long for confirmation of his son's death.



SEE ALSO
Mid-East prisoner swap under way
16 Jul 08 |  Middle East


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