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Hezbollah offers prisoner exchange

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- The head of the Islamic militant group Hezbollah early Thursday offered to free an Israeli reserve air force colonel abducted in October 2000 in exchange for Israel sparing 100 Palestinian fighters in the West Bank town of Jenin.

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"We offer the government of the Zionist enemy to release the Zionist colonel that is detained by Hezbollah," said Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the general-secretary of Hezbollah.

Nasrallah was referring to Elhanan Tennenbaum, a reserve air force colonel abducted soon after the current intifada began.

The circumstances surrounding Tennenbaum's abduction remain in dispute.

Israel says he was a businessman working in Europe for a company linked to Israel's biggest electronic and arms companies and was kidnapped in Switzerland.

Hezbollah claims Tennenbaum was working for the Israeli spy agency Mossad and was trying to infiltrate the group. Hezbollah says it lured him from Brussels to Lebanon and have been holding him ever since.

Nasrallah said his group would free Tennenbaum if the "safety, security and lives" of the Palestinian fighters are guaranteed. He said the fighters are currently "facing liquidation and execution."

The Israel Defense Forces said it has not heard about the prisoner exchange offer, but said its troops are continuing to negotiate a surrender with the fighters in Jenin.




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