Israel releases 2 Syrian prisoners as a goodwill gesture for remains of MIA Zachary Baumel
Israel released two Syrian prisoners after the remains of Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel, who was missing since 1982, were recovered by Russian special forces in Syria returned to Israel.
The two Syrian prisoners released for the body of Zachary Baumel were transferred to the Red Cross via the Qunietra crossing in the Golan Heights, the IDF said in a statement.
Russia, a key Damascus ally, this month handed over the remains and personal effects of Zachary Baumel who was 21 when he was declared missing in action along with two other soldiers in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub during First Lebanon War.
A source said authorities had pressured Moscow to secure the prisoners’ release after the news of the Israeli soldier’s remains were being handed over.
Both sides appeared to step away from any suggestion that the release was part of a negotiated swap between the two enemy states Israel and Syria.
“Israel decided in the past few days to release two prisoners as a goodwill gesture, only after the return of Zachary Baumel’s remains,” the Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday.
The two Syrian prisoners are a Fatah terrorist jailed for an attempted attack on soldiers and a drug smuggler.
Hamis Ahmad was jailed in 2005 for an attempt to infiltrate into Israel and attack an IDF base and was to be held until 2023.
Zidan Tawil has been jailed since 2008 for drug-related offenses and was to be freed in July.
37 years after going missing in action in the battle of Sultan Yaaqub in the First Lebanon war, the body of Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel has been returned to Israel.
Baumel was one of six soldiers who went missing in Lebanon on June 11, 1982, at the beginning of the First Lebanon War, fighting against Syrian forces.
Twenty IDF soldiers were killed in the battle, one of Israel’s worst failures in the war. Two soldiers were taken captive and the body of a third missing soldier was returned in 1984 and 1985. The whereabouts of two others, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, are still unknown.
Russia returned the military uniform, shoes and other items found at the Yarmouk refugee camp, near Damascus, that belonged to IDF MIA Zechariah Baumel at a ceremony held at the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Days after the remains of Zachary Baumel were brought to Israel, hundreds of people gathered at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem for his funeral.