Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has won approval from his cabinet for a prisoner swap with the Lebanese group Hezbollah that is expected to be carried out within a matter of days.
Cabinet voted in favour of the proposal Sunday to free five Hezbollah fighters and return the bodies of 10 other fighters in exchange for two Israeli soldiers.
Earlier in the day, Olmert recommended the agreement pass, urging cabinet ministers to bring “this painful affair to an end, even at the painful price it requires.”
There has been no official announcement on what happened to the two Israel soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, whose abduction sparked the 34-day war between Israel Hezbollah fighters in 2006.
However, media reports on Sunday quoted an unidentified Israel official as saying that Olmert told cabinet he believed the two were no longer alive.
The highest-profile Lebanese prisoner to be released would be Samir Kantar, imprisoned for a 1979 attack etched in the Israeli psyche as one of the cruellest in the nation’s history.
The attack by Kantar and three others took place in the northern coastal town of Nahariya near the border with Lebanon.
Witnesses said Kantar shot Danny Haran on the beach in front of his four-year-old daughter, then smashed her skull against a rock with his rifle butt, killing her, too.
Earlier, the attackers stormed the family’s apartment, where Haran’s wife, Smadar, hid in a crawl space and accidentally smothered her two-year-old daughter in a frantic attempt to keep her quiet.