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Israel deports Hezbollah spy amid rumors of prisoner swap

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Shiite militant group hands over coffin with remains of Israeli soldiers
  • Hezbollah says Nasim Nisr a "patriot" but not affiliated with group
  • Nisr, a Lebanese-born Israeli citizen, jailed in 2002 for collaborating with Hezbollah
  • Hezbollah wants release of Samir Kuntar, who killed 4-year-old girl, her father
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NAQOURA, Lebanon (CNN) -- Israel on Sunday deported a Lebanese-born man who served six years in jail on charges of spying for the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Israel's deportation of Lebanese-born Nasim Nisr could spur the release of more prisoners.

Some observers believe Nasim Nisr's release is prelude to a possible prisoner exchange as Israel has sought to retrieve two abducted soldiers who may have been in Lebanon for almost two years.

Hezbollah, which held a boisterous welcome rally for Nisr, says he is not affiliated with the group but rather is a "Lebanese patriot."

In exchange for Nisr, Hezbollah handed over a brown coffin containing the remains of Israeli soldiers killed during its 2006 war with Israel. Video Watch the coffin arrive »

Nisr, who was born to an Israeli Jewish mother and a Lebanese Muslim father, spent his childhood in Lebanon but left during the 1982 Israeli invasion. He settled near Tel Aviv, married and became an Israeli citizen.

Israeli authorities arrested him in 2002 and charged him with collaborating with Hezbollah.

Nisr completed his jail sentence this year, but Israeli authorities could have held him in administrative detention. Video Watch doves released in a parade for Nisr »

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The release, therefore, is seen by many as a precursor to a prisoner swap. Israel is interested in the return of two soldiers captured during a cross-border raid in July 2006: reservists Ehud Golwasser and Eldad Regev.

The Jewish state and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006 during which Israeli troops invaded Lebanon in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the soldiers.

Hezbollah would like to see convicted killer Samir Kuntar released as well. Kuntar is the longest-serving Lebanese prisoner in Israel. Hezbollah hails him as a hero.

Kuntar led a group of four men who entered Israel from Lebanon by boat in 1979. They killed a police officer who came across them. Then they took a 28-year-old man and his 4-year-old daughter hostage.

Kuntar shot the father dead at close range in front of his daughter and drowned him in the sea. He also smashed the girl's head, killing her. He was sentenced to life.


Kuntar's brother, Bassan, said he is optimistic that Sunday's release could spur more negotiations.

Last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Israel would release prisoners it is holding, adding fuel to the rumors.

CNN's Cal Perry contributed to this report

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