The rabbi, General Israel Weiss, was accompanied on Wednesday by forensics specialists and soldiers, who will form a guard of honour during a handover ceremony of the bodies of Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omar Sawayed. 

"The delegation is comprised of representatives of the IDF
(Israeli Defense Forces) manpower branch, the IDF rabbinate, the IDF medical corps, experts from the Israeli forensic medicine institute and two officers from the forensic science unit of the Israeli police," an army statement said. 

The return of the three Israeli soldiers is one strand of a complex German-brokered deal. 

The Swap

The operation is due to be carried out on Thursday and will see more than 400 Arab prisoners go free as well as an Israeli
businessman, Elhanan Tannenbaum, who has been held by the Shia Muslim movement Hizb Allah. 

The doctors on the Israeli air force flight were also expected
to carry out medical examinations of Tannenbaum who was abducted in Beirut in October 2000. 

Tannenbaum, who was a reserve colonel in the Israeli army, is
expected to be arrested after his arrival back home for questioning over the circumstances of how he came to be in Lebanon. 

But he is likely to be given a short time first with his family
at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. 

Pardons

 Palestinian woman holds a picture
of her sons captured by Israel

Israel's President Moshe Katsav began issuing pardons on Wednesday morning for a number of the Arab prisoners slated for release the next day, official sources said. 

Among the prisoners due to be freed - most of them Palestinians - is British-educated German national Stefan Smyrek who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1999 for helping Hizb Allah plan an attack. 

Red Cross teams were also expected to visit on Wednesday some of the Arab prisoners being held by Israel ahead of their release. 

Senior Israeli sources cited by military radio none of the Arab
prisoners would be released before the bodies of the Israeli
soldiers had been positively identified. 

Thursday's exchange is expected to take place in the western
German cities of Frankfurt and Cologne.