Hezbollah, Israel in limited prisoner swap

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NAQOURA, Lebanon, Oct 15 (Reuters) Israel and Hezbollah are set today to exchange the remains of an Israeli civilian for a Lebanese prisoner and the bodies of two guerrillas, a Lebanese security source said today.

''As a goodwill gesture, there will be a swap of a prisoner and the bodies of two Hezbollah fighters for the remains of an Israeli who was not a soldier,'' the source said.

There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah.

The source described the dead Israeli as an Ethiopian immigrant who drowned at sea several years ago. His body was swept north onto the Lebanese coast and found by Lebanese fishermen who handed it over to Hezbollah.

The two dead Hezbollah fighters were killed during last year's war with Israel, he said. The identity of the Lebanese prisoner was not immediately known but Israel captured several guerrillas during the war.

A large Hezbollah convoy, with an ambulance carrying the remains of the Israeli, arrived at Naqoura town on the Lebanese side of the border with Israel at around 1930 IST to complete the swap, sources and witnesses said.

''I'm very proud of my son who gave up his life for his nation,'' Hussein Wizwaz, father of one of the two guerrillas, told Reuters as he and relatives of other Lebanese prisoners waited at the border.

Several Israeli soldiers have been missing in Lebanon since the 1980s and are presumed dead. But there had been no previous report that an Israeli civilian was missing.

Hezbollah still holds two Israeli soldiers it seized in July 2006. Their abductions triggered the 34-day war with Israel.

A UN-appointed mediator is working on a deal to get the soldiers exchanged for Lebanese and other prisoners. There has been no word on whether the two soldiers are alive and, if so, on their condition.

A Lebanese source said today's exchange had been arranged by the mediator, who is believed to be a German intelligence officer.

REUTERS RSA PM2226

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