Israel was to release two Druze inmates, one of which was convicted of spying for the Syrian government, as part of a prisoner swap deal, the Israeli Prison Service confirmed on Thursday.
The prisoners, Sidqi al-Maqt and Amal Abu Salah, are being released as part of the deal with Russia. This is set to be the last installment of the agreement that saw Russia return the body of a long-missing IDF soldier Zachary Baumel, retrieved in Syria earlier this year.
Abu Salah was to be freed late Thursday from Hermon Prison, while Al-Maqt was to be released sometime on Friday from Katziot Prison.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the release, describing it as a "political gesture of goodwill, following the return of the late Zacharia Baumel's body from Syria to Israel."
Al-Maqt, 53, a resident of the Golan Heights Druze village of Majdal Shams, was sentenced to eleven years in prison for various charges; among them espionage and treason.
Abu Salah, 26, also a resident of Majdal Shams, sentenced to seven years in prison for killing a Syrian national who was being taken to an Israeli hospital.
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. 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 Salah, 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: 23:18 , 01.09.20