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US Senator John McCain, who spent five grueling as a prisoner of war during Vietnam, met with the families of two captured IDF soldiers Sunday, sharing his own harrowing story of survival behind enemy lines and promising to work for their release.
Reserve soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were captured July 12 by Lebanon's Hizbullah guerrillas in a cross-border raid that ignited a 34-day war. No details on the soldiers' current conditions have been released and their captors have not provided any signs that they are still alive.
"I don't know if I was able to bring comfort, but we certainly said we would do everything in our power to bring attention to the situation and see that Geneva Conventions are observed," McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said after his meeting with the soldiers' relatives.
McCain, a former pilot and current US presidential hopeful, was shot down over North Vietnam during a bombing run in 1967. During his five years in captivity - two spent in solitary confinement - McCain was frequently tortured by his captors and thought to be on the verge of death.
Omri Avni, Goldwasser's father-in-law, said McCain's experience gave his family a shred of optimism.
"We know (McCain) was captured and held in Vietnam for five years and he suffered a lot and he is now known to be a hero," Avni said. "This is a very good hope for us, because even after five years (in captivity) there is new life. We are hoping that after five months we can get our boys back to start a new life."
McCain, who was traveling with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), also assured the families during the meeting of continued efforts to bring about the soldiers' safe return.
"I think (McCain's) life story is a great a source of hope to the families," Lieberman said. "We will go beyond that, as we promised them, and do everything we can diplomatically and politically."