Syrian forces abducted an Israeli woman who wandered into Syrian territory, demanding the release of two security prisoners held by Israel.
By United with Israel Staff and AP
A 25-year-old Israeli woman who accidentally wandered across the border was snatched up by Syrian forces, who demanded the release of security prisoners held in Israel.
With the help of Russian mediation, Israel negotiated her release.
Asked about the swap during an interview with Israel’s army radio station, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was using his personal connections with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to resolve the matter. He declined to elaborate, saying only that he was working in a “discrete and responsible” manner.
One of the prisoners, Nihal al-Makt, had been under house arrest, serving a three-year suspended sentence and reporting for a year to Israeli authorities daily. She spoke from her home to Syrian TV later on Wednesday.
“I am free in my country with no conditions attached and no [Israeli] authority over me,” al-Makt told Syrian Al-Ikhbariya TV, speaking through Skype after the exchange.
Al-Makt lives in the Israeli portion of the Golan Heights but identifies as Syrian and was indicted for incitement, according to Syrian media. On Wednesday afternoon, she told Al-Ikhbariya TV that she had been released from house arrest.
She said she was asked by Israel to move to Damascus, a condition to put an end to her sentence. But she refused, and after Moscow’s mediation was allowed to stay in Majdl Shams, a village in the Israeli Golan.
Al-Makt’s brother spent nearly 30 years in Israeli prison, but was released in an exchange of prisoners last year, also mediated by Russia, that came after Syria returned the remains of an Israeli soldier killed in a 1982 battle.
The other prisoner involved in the incident this week is Ziyab Qahmouz, who also lives in Israel, but identifies as Syrian. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role planning a bombing directed by the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group.
Qahmouz reportedly contacted Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, who provided explosives designed to blow up Haifa bus stations.
The Qahmouz family has extensive Hezbollah ties. The family’s patriarch is Sa’ad Qahmouz, a drug dealer who now resides in Lebanon and is a member of the terror group.
Ziyab Qahmouz remained in Israeli custody Wednesday, Al-Ikhbariya TV said.
Syrian news agency SANA said the Israeli woman had entered Syria’s Quneitra province by mistake and was taken into Syrian custody. Israeli officials declined to comment. There was no immediate Russian comment.
Israeli media reported late Tuesday that the Israeli government had convened for deliberations regarding a recent incident related to Syria.
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