Israel and Hezbollah carried out their first swap since the Second Lebanon War on Monday, a move Israel said was part of a larger negotiation process on the release of two of its soldiers abducted by the guerilla group in July 2006.
The deal saw the release by Israel of a Hezbollah guerilla suffering a mental illness and the bodies of two others, in exchange for the body of an Israeli civilian. Sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau said the swap also included information from Hezbollah regarding a separate issue, and that the information would be examined in the coming days. The Lebanese media reported that the information pertained to the fate of captured Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad, who went missing when his fighter jet went down over Lebanon in 1986.
The United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday broke its silence over an Israel Air Force strike last month that reportedly targeted a Syrian nuclear facility, and urged any parties with information on Damascus' nuclear plans to come forward. "The IAEA has no information about any undeclared nuclear facility in Syria and no information about recent reports," said an announcement by the IAEA. "We would obviously investigate any relevant information coming our way. The IAEA secretariat expects any country having information about nuclear-related activities in another country to provide that information to the IAEA." The statement went on to say that the IAEA hopes any country with information on the undeclared nuclear activities in another state would pass it on to the agency.
As Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams met to work on a joint declaration ahead of a US-sponsored Middle East peace parley scheduled to take place in November, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday raised questions about Israel's control of Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. ... US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday that Palestinian and Israeli negotiators "are making their most serious effort in years to resolve the conflict." ... A top UN expert has said he will urge the world body to withdraw from the Quartet of Middle East mediators unless it addresses Palestinian human rights. John Dugard, the UN human rights envoy for the Palestinian Territories, told the BBC the US, EU, UN and Russia were failing to protect the Palestinians. He said the UN "does itself little good by remaining a member of the Quartet".