Israel on Thursday freed two Syrian shepherds who were arrested a few weeks ago as the deal to secure the release of an Israeli woman who accidentally crossed into Syria appears to be within reach.
It emerged on Wednesday that Israel is holding Russian-mediated negotiations with Syria over a prisoner swap that would see an Israeli woman released from Syrian detention in return for two Druze prisoners from the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.
The two shepherds were arrested recently for deliberately crossing into Israel and their release have been made in addition to the demand to free the Druze prisoners.
IDF troops handed the shepherds over to the Red Cross personnel, who escorted them into Syrian territory.
National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and Yaron Blum, the official in the Prime Minister's Office responsible for Israeli captives, have flown to Moscow to discuss the terms of the release of the Israeli woman.
Sources in Israel said the prisoner swap deal will be concluded later in the day unless developments take a surprising turn. The sources said there was hope earlier the young woman would be returned to Israel on Ben-Shabbat and Blum's flight back to Israel.
The woman is set to undergo questioning by the Shin Bet upon her arrival in Israel. Foreign media reports the woman was a resident of the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi'in Illit in the West Bank.