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Despite delays, prisoner swap leaves Hezbollah emboldened

In Lebanon, hundreds waited for five prisoners, who were treated as returning heroes.

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Hundreds of jubilant Lebanese endured hours of blazing heat in the coastal village of Naqoura Wednesday to welcome home five detainees released by Israel in a prisoner exchange that Hezbollah, Lebanon's militant Shiite group, is hailing as a new "victory" over the Jewish state.

The five prisoners included Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze who served 30 years in an Israeli prison for his role in a deadly 1978 raid that left a policeman and three Israeli family members dead in northern Israel. The other four prisoners were Hezbollah fighters captured in the month-long war with Israel in 2006.

Hezbollah returned the remains of two Israeli soldiers abducted two years ago in an act that triggered Israel's 34-day war with Lebanon.

The swap was scheduled to take place at 9 a.m., but eight hours later the five Lebanese prisoners were still on the Israeli side of the border and only the remains of 12 Arab guerrilla fighters had been transferred into Hezbollah's custody.

That exchange recalled a history of Arab-Israeli enmity.

Seven of the 12 were Hezbollah fighters killed in the 2006 war. The other five were Palestinian guerrillas killed during a raid in northern Israel in 1978, an operation that triggered Israel's first invasion of Lebanon, an occupation that lasted 22 years, and gave birth to Hezbollah.

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