Israeli who spied for Hizbullah to be deported to Lebanon

Nasim Nisr, 39, to pass through Rosh Hanikra crossing Sunday; Israel denies release part of larger swap deal with Hizbullah.

An Israeli citizen convicted of spying for Hizbullah will be deported to Lebanon next week, his lawyer and Red Cross officials said Wednesday. Nasim Nisr, a 39-year old Israeli citizen of Lebanese descent, was jailed in 2002 for six years. He will be released on Sunday and escorted from Israel to the Lebanon border. The deportation comes amid rumors of a prisoner swap between Israel and Hizbullah, which would include the return of IDF reservists Ehud Golwasser and Eldad Regev and the longest-serving Lebanese prisoner in Israel, convicted killer Samir Kuntar. Nisr's lawyer said the deportation could be an opening move toward a wider prisoner exchange between Israel and Hizbullah. However, government officials denied any connection between the two deals and Hizbullah has not commented on the issue. Nisr will be driven north to the Rosh Hanikra border crossing shared between the two enemy countries. The International Committee of the Red Cross will usher him through the border crossing and hand him over to the group's colleagues in Lebanon, said Paul Connally, the deputy head of the delegation for Israel and the Palestinian territories. Nisr's Israeli citizenship will be revoked before he is deported, said Smadar Ben-Natan, his lawyer. Nisr's jail term ended a month ago, and he could have been deported at the time. Ben-Natan said authorities decided to wait, indicating that Israel was holding him for a potential prisoner exchange. "Israel would not want to send him back to Lebanon and get nothing in return. It seems reasonable that there is an exchange," she said, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. Kuntar's lawyer, Elias Sabbagh, also said he believed Nisr's release was part of a larger deal and was a confidence building measure between the two sides. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office confirmed the deportation but said it was not a part of negotiations with Hizbullah. Last Monday, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah predicted that Israel would release prisoners it is holding "very soon." Nisr was born in Bazouriyeh, Lebanon, birthplace of Nasrallah, to a Jewish mother and a Shi'ite Muslim father, and emigrated to Israel later. He married twice in Israel, and has a 10-year-old son from his first wife, and two daughters aged 10 and 7 from his current wife. His wife insists he did not spy for Hizbullah.