Israeli Cabinet Approves Hezbollah Prisoner Deal

JERUSALEM (AP) — A spokesman for Israel’s prime minister says the Cabinet has overwhelmingly agreed to a deal with Hezbollah to swap a notorious Lebanese prisoner for the bodies of two captured soldiers.

The proposed deal also needs the approval of the Lebanese militant group’s secretive, decision-making council.

The agreement had sparked a fierce public debate over whether Israel would be giving up too much or is carrying out its commitment to do everything it can to bring home soldiers who’d fallen into enemy hands.

The deal would have Hezbollah return two soldiers it captured in a July 2006 cross-border raid that sparked a 34-day war.

Israel would release Samir Kantar, who’s serving multiple life terms for a 1979 attack in which witnesses say a man was shot in front of his 4-year-old daughter and the girl also died after being struck in the head with a rifle butt.

Critics have argued that swapping bodies for Kantar would offer militant groups an even greater incentive to capture soldiers and less of a reason to keep captives alive.