Israel on Friday released two prisoners, including one jailed for spying for Syria, in what it called a goodwill gesture for the Russian-assisted repatriation last year of the body of an IDF soldier who fell in Lebanon in 1982.
Russia, a key ally of Syria, in April 2019 handed Israel the remains and personal effects of Zachary Baumel, who was declared missing in action along with two other soldiers following the First Lebanon War tank battle with Syrian forces at Sultan Yaqoub.
Sidqi al-Maqt, 53, was jailed for 11 years in 2015 "for treason and espionage, support for terrorism and contact with a hostile organization."
Amal Abu Saleh was imprisoned the same year for seven years for killing a Syrian national who was being taken to an Israeli hospital, the Israel Prisons Service said.
Both men were released "before the end of their imprisonment" in coordination with the IDF, the IPS said.
Abu Saleh was freed from Hermon Prison in the north, while Al-Maqt was released from Katziot Prison in the southern Negev Desert.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the release, describing it as a "political gesture of goodwill, following the return of the late Zachary Baumel's body from Syria to Israel."
The Prime Minister's Office said the two men released are from Majdal Shams, a Druze village in the Golan Heights.
U.S.-born Baumel went missing during the June 1982 battle against Syrian troops at the Lebanese village of Sultan Yacoub, close to the Lebanese-Syrian border.
He was believed to have been captured by enemy forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russian forces based in Syria were those who found Baumel's remains.
Earlier this year, Israel released two other Syrian prisoners - a Fatah terrorist and a drug smuggler - sending them to Syria in return for Baumel’s remains.
Al-Maqt was indicted at the Nazareth District Courthouse in 2015 following a lengthy investigation by police and the Shin Bet security service.
He previously served a 27-year-sentence and was arrested again five years ago on charges of espionage, after he allegedly passed photocopied materials, reports and observations on IDF activity in the Golan Heights to Syrian intelligence sources.
He was accused of espionage, abetting an enemy during wartime, supporting a terror organization, having contact with a foreign agent and other security offenses.
He was first imprisoned in 1985 on charges of terrorist activity and was released in August 2012.
Al Saleh, along with with another man, was convicted on charges of murdering a wounded Syrian man while they were being taken to Israel for treatment.
According to the indictment, dozens of residents of Majdal Shams, located in the southern foothills of Mt. Hermon, ambushed an Israel Defense Forces ambulance carrying two lightly wounded Syrian nationals in June of 2015.
While driving through the town, the ambulance was stopped by a number of ATVs, and soon surrounded by an angry mob.
The medical staff locked themselves inside the ambulance, and the accompanying military police told the rioters that the patients are soldiers.
Rejecting the claim, the mob manhandled the ambulance and smashed one of its windows.
Also according to the indictment, the driver escaped the mob and drove to the nearby village of Neve Ativ, where it was seized again and the two Syrian patients were attacked. One of them was killed and two IDF soldiers were wounded.
First published: 09:52 , 01.10.20