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Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Sunday, 1 June 2008 12:06 UK

Israel sends back Hezbollah spy

Nissim Nasser, 1 June, 2008
Nissim Nasser had served six years in an Israeli jail for espionage

An Israeli citizen convicted of spying for Hezbollah in 2002, Nissim Nasser, has been deported to Lebanon.

And amid rumours the release might be part of a prisoner swap, Lebanese group Hezbollah returned remains of Israeli soldiers killed in the 2006 war.

Mr Nasser was born in Lebanon to a Jewish mother and a Shia Muslim father. He left the country in 1982 and became an Israeli citizen.

Israel revoked his citizenship when his six-year sentence ended a month ago.

Mr Nasser was driven to the border crossing near Lebanon's southern town of Naqoura in an unmarked white jeep and handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Hezbollah party

Hezbollah officials had prepared a celebratory party for his return, with a stage erected near the border and loudspeakers blaring patriotic music across a main square.

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Nissim Nasser after his release

A more extensive prisoner swap between the two sides could involve two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in 2006 - an act which prompted the 33-day war between Israel and the Shia militant group - and a number of Lebanese citizens held by Israel.

There has been no comment from Hezbollah on those rumours, and Israel has denied that this deportation is part of any wider deal.

But as Mr Nasser was released, Hezbollah said it had handed over the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2006 war to the ICRC, in order that they could be returned to Israel.

The ICRC confirmed it had received a box of human remains from Hezbollah which it had turned it over to Israel.

The exchange was a clear signal that negotiations had been going on behind the scenes, possibly facilitated by German mediators, says the BBC's Mike Sergeant in Beirut.

Born in 1968, Mr Nasser left Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of 1982 and joined his mother's family in Israel, where he settled near Tel Aviv.



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