Israel Returns Two Detained Syrians in Prisoner Exchange Talks
In significant developments in ongoing prisoner exchange talks between Israel and Syria, Israel has repatriated two Syrian citizens who had crossed into Israeli territory.
Israeli news site N12 reported Thursday that the Syrian citizens were shepherds who were transferred to the Red Cross at the Quneitra crossing on the Golan Heights by the IDF. They had been detained by the IDF in recent weeks after they strayed across the border into Israeli territory.
Following a snap cabinet meeting earlier this week that was initially shrouded in mystery, it was revealed that Israel is involved in Russian-brokered negotiations with Syria in order to secure the return of one of its citizens being held in the war-torn country.
N12 reported that the Israeli citizen concerned is a 25-year-old ultra-Orthodox woman from the town of Modi’in Ilit.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the affair, “We are working to save lives. I am using my personal contacts with Putin to solve the problem.” He described the talks as “sensitive.”
“We are acting discreetly and responsibly and I believe we will resolve this,” he added.
Israeli journalist Barak Ravid tweeted Thursday that Israel’s chief hostage and missing persons negotiator Yaron Blum has gone to Moscow to collect the young woman. A doctor accompanied him to ensure the prisoner is healthy.
Ravid said that Syria transferred the woman to the Russians on Wednesday.
1 / ברייקינג: מתאם השבויים והנעדרים ירון בלום יצא למוסקבה כדי לאסוף את האזרחית הישראלית שהיתה כלואה בסוריה. האזרחית הישראלית הועברה כבר אתמול לידי הרוסים. יחד עם בלום יצא גם רופא במטרה לבדוק את מצבה הבריאותי
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) February 18, 2021
Israeli public broadcaster Kan has reported that Syria is demanding the release of two other Syrians held by Israel, who are Druze residents of the Syrian Golan. However, the prisoners declined to be released after they were offered deportation to Damascus.