Hizb Allah and Israel have been negotiating through German mediators a possible swap of Hizb Allah's four Israeli captives for about 15 Lebanese and as many as 400 Palestinian and other Arab detainees in Israel.

   

Hizb Allah said in a statement its leader Shaikh Hasan Nasr Allah met senior Hamas officials including politburo head Khalid Mishaal on Saturday to discuss the inclusion of Palestinians in any deal.

 

Precursor

   

"We are following with Hizb Allah the issue of a prisoner swap after it was confirmed that a deal would include a number of Palestinian captives," Mishaal said after the meeting. He gave no more details.

   

Israel handed over the remains of two Hizb Allah fighters in August, a step seen as a precursor to a swap of high-profile detainees. This includes two guerrilla leaders Israel abducted as bargaining chips to get information on Israeli airman Ron Arad who went missing over Lebanon in 1986.

   

"We are following with Hizb Allah the issue of a prisoner swap after it was confirmed that a deal would include a number of Palestinian captives"

Khaled Meshaal,
Head, Hamas politburo

Nasr Allah on Friday met senior Islamic Jihad officials and discussed the latest developments in swap talks, Hizb Allah said.

   

The meetings come days after Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told reporters the Jewish state was closer than ever to an agreement on an exchange of prisoners with Hizb Allah.

   

Iranian and Syrian-backed Hizb Allah, which helped end Israel's 22-year occupation of south Lebanon in May 2000, seized three Israeli soldiers in a disputed border area months later.

   

Weeks on, it announced the capture of Israeli reserve colonel Elhanan Tenenbaum, who it claimed was an Israeli spy.

   

Israel believes the three soldiers are dead, but sees the return of their bodies and uncovering the fate of Arad as a national priority.