Israel's cabinet gave final approval on Tuesday for a prisoner swap with Lebanon's Hezbollah group scheduled to get under way on Wednesday, Israel Radio said.
The deal had stirred opposition from cabinet ministers opposed to trading prisoners for the bodies of Israeli troops. Israel is to free five Lebanese fighters in return for two soldiers who Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said were likely dead.
The officials said the cabinet voted 22-3 to ratify the exchange.
"This is not a happy day for any of us, to release murderers such as these. But we have a moral and soulful obligation to bring our soldiers home," Israeli President Shimon Peres said before the vote.
In preparation for the exchange at the Israeli-Lebanese border, Maher Qorani, Mohammad Srour, Hussein Suleiman and Khodr Zeidan were transferred on Monday from a prison where they had been held since their capture in the 2006 Lebanon war to a jail where they joined the fifth inmate, Samir Qantar.
In return for releasing the five men, Israel will recover reserve soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, whose capture by Hezbollah in a cross-border raid triggered the 34-day war with the Iranian-backed group two years ago.
ReutersLast Mod: 15 Temmuz 2008, 22:55