Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 17:00 UK

Israel prisoners 'may be swapped'

Captured Israeli soldier Eldad Regev - file photo
Eldad Regev's father is not certain his son is still alive

Lebanon's Hezbollah movement may be close to reaching a deal with Israel on the release of two Israeli soldiers, the father of one soldier has said.

Zvi Regev said he had been told by an Israeli negotiator that an announcement would be made soon.

Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were captured by Hezbollah in a cross-border raid into Israel in July 2006 that sparked war in Lebanon.

Lebanese media have said the two could be swapped for Israeli-held prisoners.

Israeli remains returned

Mr Regev said there was no proof, however, that his son and Mr Goldwasser were still alive.

"We know Eldad and Ehud were wounded at the time they were captured," Mr Regev told Israeli radio.

"We are preparing for the worst but remain hopeful they are alive."

He said that Israeli negotiator Ofer Dekel had told him earlier in May that there would be an announcement about an exchange of the prisoners or their remains.

Israel has signalled that it would be willing to release Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the two soldiers.

One of these prisoners is Samir Qantar, serving several life sentences for murder after attacking a block of flats in Nahariya in 1979, Lebanese media have reported.

Mr Qantar's lawyer told Israeli Army Radio that "all the signs and indications are that a deal is coming together," but that he had not heard anything official.

On 1 June, Hezbollah handed over the remains of five Israeli soldiers killed in the war.

The remains were delivered after Israel released a Lebanese-born man who had served six years in prison for spying for Hezbollah.

Another Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, remains a prisoner of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

He was seized in a raid on an Israeli army position on the edge of the Gaza Strip. Hamas has said it would consider releasing him as part of a prisoner exchange.

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