JERUSALEM, Israel – A 25-year-old Israeli woman held by the Syrian regime after crossing into Syrian territory was released after Israel asked for Russia’s help in mediating her return.
“A few days ago, a young Israeli woman crossed the border into Syria. I spoke twice with my friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin. I asked for his help to get her back, and he did act,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Friday.
The prime minister thanked Putin for helping secure the woman’s return.
Hours before her release, Israel announced it had returned to Syria two shepherds who recently crossed into Israeli territory. Their release is widely seen as part of a prisoner swap deal.
The woman, who has not been identified, flew from Syria to Moscow and landed in Israel Thursday. She was later questioned by the Shin Bet security service, Israeli media reported.
Little is known about who she is or why she entered Syria. Israeli media says she left an ultra-orthodox settlement community in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria. The Axios news agency cited Israeli officials who said she previously studied Arabic and had also tried crossing into Gaza.
Syrian media said she had accidentally entered Syria after crossing from the Golan Heights.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Mideast war. Israel unilaterally asserted sovereignty over the territory. This move was not recognized by the international community, but Israel claims the Golan Heights is a strategic region for its security. The US became the first country to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in March 2019.
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