The touchy swap of prisoners and the remains of soldiers captured in 2006 was completed today with the assistance of the Red Cross at the Israeli-Lebanon border.
Although much of Israel held out hope that the two Israeli soldiers—Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser—were still alive, the nation’s fears were confirmed when the two soldiers’ were brought to the border in coffins.
In return, Hezbollah received the remains of 200 of their fighters, as well as Samir Kuntar and four other prisoners.
Kuntar is a particularly controversial figure. In 1979, he killed Danny Haran and his four-year-old daughter Einat in gruesome fashion before being apprehended. Haran’s other daughter was accidentally smothered to death by her mother, Smadar, who was attempting to keep her from crying out and disclosing their hiding spot.
Kuntar is therefore a loathed figure in Israel, and his release—as well as official pardon—today roused considerable criticism.
The scene was quite different in Lebanon, however, where a national holiday was declared to commemorate Kuntar’s return. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas praised the deal; he sent his personal regards to Kuntar and the other prisoners’ families.
The other Israeli soldier in enemy hands, Gilad Shalit, is currently held by Hamas. According to Haaretz, they are delaying a comparable deal to the one completed today.
—Benjamin Schuman Stoler