What happened: Early this morning the Israel citizen who had crossed the Syrian border and was held for several days returned to Israel via Moscow.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Several days ago, a young Israeli woman crossed the border to Syria. I spoke twice with my friend Russian President Vladimir Putin. I requested his assistance in returning her, and he acted. I would like to thank him for again having joined in an effort to bring Israeli citizens back to the country. Israel has always, and will always, do everything it can to bring its citizens back home.”
- In exchange for the release of the Israeli citizen, two shepherds who had crossed into the Golan Heights recently were released and sent to Syria, along with commuting the sentence of a resident of Majdal Shams.
- The Israel Defense Forces said that the shepherds were apprehended by soldiers east of the security fence in the Golan Heights area after they crossed the Alpha Line from Syria into Israeli territory.
- The Israeli government placed significant diplomatic effort to retrieve the 25-year old woman from Modiin Illit. Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke twice with Russian President Putin, Defence Minister Benny Gantz spoke with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whilst Israel’s National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and President Putin’s diplomatic adviser held continuous talks in order to complete the details of the citizen’s return.
- She returned in a private jet that departed from Moscow, along with a delegation from Israel led by coordinator for prisoners and MIAs Yaron Blum and Prime Minister’s Bureau Chief of Staff Asher Hayun, who had gone to accompany her return.
Context: According to media reports from Syria, the Israeli resident made her way into Syrian territory after “falling in love with a Syrian citizen”.
- On Tuesday, Cabinet ministers were called to an urgent, unscheduled meeting on a classified “humanitarian issue” related to Syria. The details of the meeting were barred from publication by the military censor.
- In Israeli it is mandatory to convene the cabinet since its authorisation is legally required for any prisoner release deal.
- The successful mediation by Russia, attests to their dominant role inside Syria, and their constructive relationship with the Israeli leadership.
- Israel reduced by three months the community service sentence that had been imposed on Nihal al-Maqt, a Druze woman from Majdal Shams, who was sentenced to three years in prison for monitoring IDF troop movements. Al-Maqt was one of two security prisoners who were originally meant to be released to Syria in the exchange deal. The other prisoner was Dhiyab Qahmuz, who was arrested four and a half years ago and sentenced for 14 years in prison for planning terror attacks on behalf of Hezbollah in northern Israel, including planting bombs in Haifa, Nesher and the Golani Intersection. Qahumz refused to be sent to Syria and wanted to go back to his village on the Golan Heights, he will instead remain in prison. It was therefore agreed to release the two shepherds instead.
- Over the past decade Israel installed a new security barrier along the Syrian border. It is believed that the woman entered Syria through an unfenced location.
- According to Israeli officials, she had studied Arabic and in the past had been prevented from crossing the southern border into Gaza.
Looking ahead: Upon returning to Israel, the woman is expected to be questioned by the security services about the circumstances in which she crossed the border.
- The IDF will investigate how the observation posts and radar stations in the sector failed to detect her as she crossed the border.