Israel was in mourning Thursday, following a controversial prisoner swap with the Islamic guerrilla group Hezbollah in Lebanon in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were captured in 2006. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem on the funerals of the two Israel soldiers.
Thousands of people attended the funerals of the two Israeli soldiers. Mourners included government and military officials, family and friends.
Karnit Goldwasser is the wife of one of the two soldiers, whose capture sparked the Lebanon War two years ago.
"My heart is crying in pain," she said. "Although I am without you, I will always be with you."
Goldwasser traveled the globe over the past two years, meeting with world leaders, in an effort to win the release of the captive soldiers.
While the prisoner swap brings closure to the families, it has sparked heated debate, because Israel released five Lebanese prisoners, including top militant Samir Kuntar. He was convicted of killing an Israeli in front of his four-year-old daughter in 1979 and then smashing her head with a rifle butt.
Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens says the deal erodes Israeli deterrence.
"This deal and the circumstances under which it was made will provide encouragement and incentive to Hamas and to Hezbollah to abduct soldiers in the future, and make even more extreme demands. And that means the sum-total is negative," he said.
But current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who spoke at the funerals, said the government made the right decision.
Barak vowed that, if soldiers fall into captivity, the State of Israel will take all the necessary steps to bring them home.