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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 10:57 GMT
Mid-East prisoner swap complete
A Palestinian celebrates before his release
Prisoners were given a heroes' welcome
The bodies of 59 guerrillas - mainly from Hezbollah - have been returned to Lebanon, completing a controversial exchange of prisoners with Israel.

The men were killed during Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon.

Hundreds of Hezbollah prisoners - as well as about 400 Palestinians - were freed on Thursday as part of the deal.

The agreement, after three years of German-led negotiations, saw the return of the bodies of three Israeli soldiers killed in Lebanon.

As part of the deal, Hezbollah also freed an Israeli businessman, Elhanan Tannenbaum, who was kidnapped in October 2000, the same month the three soldiers were killed.

Hezbollah threats

The bodies of the guerrillas were brought to a crossing on the Lebanese-Israeli border by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Hezbollah releases:
Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum
Remains of three Israeli soldiers
Israel releases:
400 Palestinian prisoners
About 30 Arab fighters, 23 Lebanese
Remains of 59 militants

The wooden caskets were wrapped in Lebanese flags as they began their journey to the capital, Beirut, where they were to be identified, before being given out to their families for reburial.

Hezbollah and Lebanese Government officials attended the ceremony.

Hezbollah has warned it will kidnap more Israelis to secure the release of Lebanese prisoners, if necessary.

Negotiations mediated by German officials will now continue.

Israel wants to know what happened to the airman, Ron Arad, who went missing when his plane was shot down over in 1986.

If the Lebanese group provides that information, Israel says it may free Samir al-Qantar, who was convicted of killing Israeli civilians.

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25 Jan 04  |  Middle East
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04 Apr 02  |  Middle East

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