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Copyright 2002 Jerusalem Post
Name Of Newspaper

June 30, 2002

HEADLINE: Hizbullah pushing for prisoner swap

BYLINE: Arieh O'Sullivan and Dani Izenberg

Reviving speculation of an impending prisoner swap, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah reportedly called for Israel to release a sick prisoner if progress is to be made on a deal. The report came amid two reports of suspected Hizbullah agents operating in Israel.

One is a Jewish immigrant from Lebanon, "Nissim," and the other is a Hizbullah operative captured in Hebron last week.

Nasrallah said in an interview published yesterday in Beirut's A-Safir daily that Hizbullah is withholding information on three Israeli soldiers, St.-Sgts. Binyamin Avraham and Omar Suwayed, and Sgt. Adi Avitan, captured by Hizbullah in October 2000.

He conditioned any deal of the return of the three soldiers, believed to be dead, on releases of prisoners by Israel.

In the interview, Nasrallah said he had made the demand through German negotiators who have been trying to broker a prisoner exchange for some time. He said Hizbullah wants Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners to be part of the deal.

"We told the go-between he must present practical evidence of Israeli readiness to pursue this issue, and we consider this can be done through the release of one of the prisoners, who suffers from a serious health crisis," Nasrallah said.

The identity of the ill prisoner was not given. Two weeks ago, Israel freed Ali Barzawi, a Hizbullah prisoner who was ill. Barzawi had been held for 15 years.

The goodwill gesture sparked speculation of a possible deal.

Israel wants to negotiate the return of the remains of the three abducted soldiers.

The IDF declared them dead based on information and evidence it has received. But Hizbullah has refused to reveal any information about them or a fourth Israeli, reserve Col. Elhanan Tannenbaum, who was abducted a few weeks after the three soldiers were abducted.

Nasrallah also raised the names of Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani, whom Israel is holding as bargaining chips for information on missing aviator Ron Arad.

"It is necessary to deal differently with Sheikh Obeid and Haj Dirani," Nasrallah said.

"After the release of the liberated prisoner Barzawi, stipulations were made regarding the status of Sheikh Obeid and Haj Dirani, and we received messages from them."

The Supreme Court on Friday gave the state five days to explain why disclosure of the family name of "Nissim," the Lebanese-born Israeli immigrant accused of spying for the Hizbullah, will not endanger his family in Lebanon.

According to a ruling by Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday, the alleged spy's family name, his photograph and other identifying details, and the names of his Hizbullah contact men were to have been released, but Nissim's lawyer, Ronit Robinson, appealed to the Supreme Court against the decision. Robinson argued that the disclosure would endanger the lives of Nissim's relatives in Lebanon.

Nissim, who immigrated to Israel in 1992, was charged on Thursday with being in telephone contact with family members, including his brother, in Lebanon.

The brother allegedly served as a liaison for a Hizbullah official who asked Nissim to provide information about potential targets and IDF troop movements and plans.

Nissim is the son of a Shi'ite Moslem father and a Jewish mother.

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