The Israeli and Syrian authorities announced on February 18 an exchange of prisoners between the two countries thanks to mediation from Moscow. For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this was a “sensitive” matter.
On the evening of February 18, Syria and Israel announced that they had exchanged prisoners. First, the Israeli army claimed to have handed over to Syria two “shepherds” who had been arrested “a few weeks ago” after crossing the disputed border in the part of the Syrian Golan Heights occupied by the Hebrew state. .
“In accordance with the directives of the Israeli government, the army returned two shepherds to Syrian territory”, she announced, adding that the two men had been handed over to the International Red Cross (ICRC) in Qouneïtra, in Syria. The two men were arrested after having “crossed the Alpha Line”, the de facto border between Syria and Israel on the part of the Golan annexed by the Hebrew state.
Syria then confirmed the release of these two Syrian prisoners and identified them as Mohamed Hussein and Tarek Al-Obeidan. Their release comes following “the exchange which began the day before with Russian mediation” and which, according to the official Syrian news agency Sana, enabled the release on February 17 of a Syrian activist, Nihal al-Mokt, against a young Israeli who would have entered “by mistake” on Syrian soil.
On the evening of February 16, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency meeting of his cabinet on the “humanitarian” situation in Syria, which stood out from the usual discussions concerning the “security” situation in this country at war. Asked on February 17 on a possible exchange of prisoners with Syria through Russian mediation, Benjamin Netanyahu said that “it was a matter of life and death”.
“I am using my personal contacts with President Putin to resolve the problem,” added Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview with Israeli military radio in which he referred to a “sensitive” matter.
Israel and Syria, which are still technically at war, are separated by a de facto border at the Golan Heights, which Israel has partially occupied since the end of the Six-Day War in 1967.
In recent years, the Israeli army has also stepped up strikes against elements deemed favorable to Iran, its great enemy, on Syrian soil.