Israel to Free 22 Lebanese Prisoners
Story Filed: Tuesday, January 04, 2000 8:12 AM EST
Jan 4 1999
BEIRUT (Jan. 4) XINHUA - Israel will release 22 Lebanese inmates in the next 48 hours from the Khiam Prison inside the Israeli occupation zone in south Lebanon, the People's Voice radio reported Tuesday.
The deal is brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the radio added.
Maher Tufiaili, Lebanon's representative to the five-nation Monitoring Group which oversees the cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon, had informed Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Salim Hoss of the release.
The prisoners to be released would be brought to Beirut in an ICRC bus from Khiam prison, which is reportedly still holding over 100 Lebanese prisoners for collaborating with Lebanese guerrillas.
Israel established a self-styled security zone in south Lebanon in 1985 with the claimed aim of protecting its north from Lebanese guerrillas' cross-border attacks.
Hezbollah, or Party of God, backed by Syria and Iran, is leading a guerrilla war trying to oust Israeli occupation troops out of the country.
The release is the second in less than one month, with the first batch of five freed in December.
The Israeli move is widely seen as a goodwill gesture as its Prime Minister Ehud Barak is in the U.S. for the second round of peace talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa, which began on January 3.
The peace talks resumed in Washington on December 15 after a break of almost four years.
Syria, with 35,000 troops stationed in Lebanon, is an undisputed power broker in the country and Lebanon is closely following Syria's foreign policy, especially in the Mideast peace process.
Copyright 2000, Xinhua News Agency, all rights reserved.
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