Israel announced on Thursday evening that it would agree to Lebanon’s request and return the bodies of three Hezbollah fighters who were killed by the Israeli army on Monday.

The bodies would be transferred to the Hezbollah via the Red Cross and the United Nations peace-keeping force.

Israeli security sources reported that the four fighters had infiltrated the Israeli border in an attempt to abduct Israeli soldiers in order to trade them for Arabs imprisoned in Israel.

One of the dead fighters was retrieved by the others, while the rest remained on the Israeli side of the Ghajar, a territory which is half occupied by Israel.

Sources in Israel reported that Israeli security believes that Lebanon’s official request is a positive development, and that “they hope it shows that the Lebanese government wishes to enforce its sovereignty in the country’s south”.

Israeli online daily Haaretz reported that on Thursday morning, Israel Radio quoted Radio Monte Carlo as saying that Israel had agreed to return the bodies of the three Hezbollah fighters.

According to the report, Israel and Hezbollah are holding negotiations on this issue, with the assistance of the Red Cross. Israeli military sources denied that Israel had agreed to return the bodies however.

According to Haaretz, Lebanese security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that the UN peacekeeping force on the border had been contacted about the demand for the bodies’ return.

Earlier on Thursday Lebanon demanded that Israel return the three bodies, Haaretz added.

The Lebanese Prime Minister, Fuad Saniora, told reporters during a visit to Qatar on Wednesday that “what is important is to return the bodies of the fighters who were killed during the tension on Lebanon’s international border”.

Lebanese Health Minister Mohammed Jawad Khalife, of the Amal party, said on Thursday that Israel must return the bodies of the fighters, according to Haaretz

A Lebanese Cabinet minister close to Hezbollah reiterated the demand on Thursday, Khalife warned that if the bodies are not returned the group might attempt to abduct Israeli soldiers and trade them for the bodies of their fighters.

Khalife added that Israel returned the bodies in order to avoid an escalation in the area, because “the resistance will try anyway to secure the return of their fighters”.

The Lebanese Cabinet was expected to discuss this week’s border clashes at its meeting scheduled for later on Thursday.

Meanwhile on wednesday night, the United Nations Security Council held Hezbollah responsible for the escalation, and condemned the party after an attack on Monday which wounded 11 Israeli soldiers.