UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. member nations should insist that Lebanon’s Hezbollah group produce evidence that the two Israeli soldiers it abducted a year ago are still alive, a senior U.N. envoy said on Wednesday.
Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were seized by Hezbollah militants in a July 12, 2006 raid across the Israeli border. This sparked the 34-day Israeli-Hezbollah conflict that killed 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis.
Michael Williams, the U.N. envoy for the Middle East peace process, who is leaving his post, told the U.N. Security Council that his last conversation in the region was with Goldwasser’s wife, Karnit.
“And I have to say with deep regret personally — because I have made very considerable efforts in this regard — that more than 13 months after their abductions, we still cannot establish proof of life.
“I don’t even say release and repatriation of the prisoners. I say proof of life,” said Williams, who is joining the British foreign service as its Middle East envoy.
He said nations with ties to Hezbollah should “urge the group to meet the basic humanitarian standards — that proof of life of prisoners should always be presented.”
Williams was speaking during the Security Council’s monthly Middle East debate in which 35 countries participated.
He conveyed an Israeli offer for a prisoner exchange, which Hezbollah has rejected after some 20 meetings. The group has said that Israel must first free Lebanese prisoners and possibly others held in its jails.
An internal Israeli probe concluded the two soldiers were seriously wounded during their capture and at least one of them could now be dead.