The remains of three Hezbollah guerrillas killed by Israeli forces in cross-border fighting this week were turned over to Lebanon on Friday in a move that averted a further deterioration in Lebanese-Israeli tensions. The bodies were brought to southern Lebanon's Naqoura border crossing on the Mediterranean coastline at midmorning by vehicles of the International Committee of the Red Cross before being transferred into Lebanese ambulances.
The hand over was monitored by peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which has its headquarters in Naqoura. Lebanon demanded the return of the bodies as a step toward defusing the tensions along the Lebanese-Israeli border, which erupted in heavy clashes this week.
The Israeli army said in a statement that the three bodies were returned to Lebanon "following the Lebanese government's urgent request to do so." Hezbollah guerrillas clad in black uniforms lined both sides of a stretch of road at Naqoura, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the capital, Beirut, and saluted as the caskets were carried past on the shoulders of other members of the armed group.
Hezbollah's yellow flags both wrapped the coffins and fluttered from flagpoles in the breeze as a band played martial music. A larger ceremony was expected later in Hezbollah's southern Beirut stronghold. Four guerrillas were killed and 11 Israeli soldiers were wounded in Monday's fighting on the south Lebanon border. Three bodies were taken by Israel and the fourth guerrilla died on the Lebanese side, informs the AP. N.U.