Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday said the return of two soldiers captured by Hezbollah guerrillas is far off, dashing hopes that the latest deal with the guerrilla group would pave the way for a bigger prisoner swap.
Israel and Hezbollah swapped bodies and a prisoner across the heavily guarded Lebanese-Israeli border on Monday. Although the deal was small in scale, its success was widely seen as improving the chances of further exchanges involving the two Israeli soldiers - Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - whose capture sparked a 34-day war last year. He also said it would take time to bring home a third soldier, Gilad Shalit, who is being held by Hamas-affiliated militants in the Gaza Strip.
"Yesterday we passed a certain stage of the process but unfortunately as I said, the process of returning Udi and Eldad in the north and Gilad in the south is long," Olmert said in a speech in the southern town of Ashdod.