'PM to declare Goldwasser, Regev dead'

'Der Spiegel': No date yet set for announcement, but expected soon; officials deny German report.

Regev Goldwasser 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Regev Goldwasser 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment Saturday on reports in the German weekly Der Spiegel that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans to designate IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev as "fallen soldiers." The two men were kidnapped by Hizbullah in June 2006, triggering the Second Lebanon War. Officials said that as long as there was no statement to the contrary, the working assumption was that both soldiers were missing in action and Israel would continue to pursue all means to bring about their return. There have been no signs of life from the men since the kidnappings, but Israeli officials have refused to respond to unconfirmed reports that either or both of the soldiers might be dead. A German mediator has maintained contacts with Israel and Hizbullah in an effort to achieve a prisoner swap. In the past, soldiers missing in action have been declared "fallen soldiers" after concrete proof was received by Israeli intelligence and the soldiers' families were consulted. According to Der Spiegel, no date has been set for an official Israeli announcement, but unnamed sources told the magazine that they expected it to be issued soon. In an interview with Der Spiegel published on December 11, 2007, Olmert voiced frustration over Hizbullah's unwillingness to offer goodwill gestures that could advance a prisoner swap. "[Hizbullah is] trying to use the same old techniques: They want everything in advance before they let us know the soldiers' status," he said. In October, statements made by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah that indicated progress in the negotiations led to speculation of a deal involving the release of Samir Kuntar from an Israeli prison. Nasrallah had previously demanded the release of Kuntar, who is serving multiple life terms for the killing of Danny Haran, 32, his daughters Yael, two, and Einat, five, and police sergeant Eliahu Shahar, 25, in Nahariya in 1979. Matt Zalen contributed to this report