Israel to release more prisoners for remains of more IDF soldiers - report

London-based Asharq al-Awsat says two Druze resident from Majdal Shams to be released in next round

April 30, 2019 18:11
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the Russian Army chief of staff at the ceremony of transf

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the Russian Army chief of staff at the ceremony of transferring the coffin of the missing Zacharia Baumel to Israel in Moscow, Russia on April 4th, 2019. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

Israel will release more Syrian prisoners in return for the remains of other fallen Israeli soldiers recovered by Russian soldiers in Syria, Asharq al-Awsat reported on Tuesday.

The report by the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat comes after Israel released two Syrians held in Israeli jails following the repatriation of the remains of fallen IDF soldier Sgt. Zachary Baumel after close to 40 years.

Israel holds several pro-Syrian Druze activists in prison, and according to the report the initial prisoner exchange was the first stage of a broader prisoner swap and two more Syrian prisoners currently held in Israel-Sidqi al-Maqt and Amal Abu Salah- were told by Syrian officials that they will be freed in the next round.

Al-Maqt, was the longest-serving Syrian in Israeli jails after he served 27 years in prison for various security violations. He was released in 2012 and was re-arrested in 2015 and was convicted of spying for Syria and sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2017.

Abu Saleh was convicted of manslaughter after residents of Majdal Shams blocked an Israeli ambulance that was trying to transport two wounded Syrians to hospital and killed one of the wounded.

The report, which quoted sources in their hometown of Majdal Shams in Israel’s Golan Heights, said their families protested to the Syrian authorities as well as to the Russians.

“The officials from Damascus told them from that the deal was not yet complete,” the report said, adding that “that the remains of other Israeli soldiers were in Syria and that efforts were under way to return them, so that no Syrian prisoner would remain in Israeli jails.”

Israel has denied that Baumel’s remains were part of any prisoner exchange, with IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis telling reporters that  that it was an operational mission carried out by military intelligence.

On Sunday the two Syrian prisoners were transferred to Syria via the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights despite reports that the two had asked not to be returned to Syria.

The two prisoners released were  Zidan Tuil, a resident of Khader who was jailed in Israel after being convicted of drug smuggling and was expected to be released this July.  And Hamis Ahmed, a Fatah activist and a resident of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, who was sentenced to prison until 2023 after he was caught in plot to infiltrate an IDF base in the southern Golan Heights in 2005 in order to injure or kidnap IDF soldiers.

Israeli sources said that the two men were released “as a sign of good will”, and not part of any preconceived prisoner exchange.

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