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Hezbollah returned to Israel on Wednesday the bodies
Hezbollah returned to Israel on Wednesday the bodies of two dead soldiers whose capture in July 2006 sparked a 34-day war between the Jewish state and the radical Islamic group.

Israel's military operation in Lebanon began on July 12 2006, after Hezbollah killed three Israeli servicemen and captured two others in a cross-border raid. Over 1,200 Lebanese civilians and 160 Israelis were killed and large parts of the country's infrastructure were demolished.

The two black coffins, believed to be carrying the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who have not been heard from since their capture two years ago, were carried by the Red Cross to the Israeli border.

Hezbollah earlier refused to say if the two soldiers were alive or dead, while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said last month that they were probably dead, based on forensic examination of the site where they were captured.

Against the backdrop of mourning in Israel for the dead soldiers, Lebanon is preparing to celebrate the release of five militants held in Israeli prisons, who along with the remains of 199 Lebanese and Palestinian guerrillas killed during the war, will be returned by Israel once the bodies have been officially identified.

The exchange is to take place at the Naqura-Rosh Hanikra crossing at around 18:00 GMT following the results of DNA testing.

The fighters, who will be dressed in military uniform, are to be taken to an international airport in Beirut, where an official ceremony is due to take place. Celebratory banners and flags have been hoisted at the border with Israel at Naqura to Lebanon's southern port city of Sidon.

Among the Lebanese prisoners to be released, will be Samir Kantar, who was convicted of the brutal murder of three Israelis - a policeman, a 31-year-old man, Danny Haran, and his four-year-old daughter. Haran's two-year-old daughter also tragically died while her mother tried to stop her from crying. Kantar, who was 16 at the time of the murder in 1979, has been behind bars for almost 30 years.

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