The principle of returning prisoners of war, soldiers missing in action or those kidnapped or killed has been sacrosanct for Israel since its inception in 1948. Over the last 30 years, Israel has released about 7,000 foreign, often high-profile prisoners in return for 19 Israelis and to secure the return of the bodies of eight others.
Major exchanges since 1948 include:
February 26, 1949: Five Israeli hostages held captive in the Faluja pocket, a Palestinian village, were returned in exchange for evacuating the trapped Egyptian brigade encircled by the Israeli army.
March 29, 1956: Four of five Israeli soldiers captured by Syria on December 8, 1954, were returned to Israel in exchange for 40 Syrian soldiers. The fifth, Uri Ilan, committed suicide in a Syrian jail and his body was later returned to Israel.
April 2, 1968: 12 Jordanian soldiers taken hostage in the Six Day War were returned in exchange for the body of a missing soldier. Two additional coffins were returned but contained only dirt.
June 3, 1973: Three Israeli pilots were returned after three years in Syrian captivity in exchange for 46 Syrian prisoners.
April 4, 1975: Egypt returned the bodies of 39 Israeli soldiers who were killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War in exchange for Israel’s release of 92 prisoners.
November 23, 1983: Six of eight Israeli soldiers captured by Lebanon were returned in exchange for 4,765 prisoners.
June 28, 1984: Syria returned three soldiers, Gil Fogel, Arieh Lieberman and Yonathan Shalom, and the bodies of five others, in exchange for 291 Syrian soldiers, 13 civilians and the bodies of 74 soldiers.
July 21, 1996: The bodies of Yosef Fink and Rachmim Alsheich, who had been abducted in southern Lebanon by Hizbollah on July 17, 1986, were returned in exchange for the bodies of 123 prisoners.
January 29, 2004: Elhanan Tannenbaum, an army reserve colonel, and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers, captured by Hizbollah in October 2000, were returned in exchange for 30 Lebanese and Arab prisoners, the remains of 59 Lebanese militants and civilians, 400 Palestinian prisoners and maps showing Israeli mines in South Lebanon.
July 16, 2008: Hizbollah returned the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, both kidnapped in 2006, in exchange for triple murderer Samir Kuntar and four other Hizbollah guerrillas kidnapped in 2006.
Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The McClatchy Company
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