Israel’s army says it has returned two Syrian shepherds to the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights, reportedly as part of a prisoner swap between the countries.
“A short while ago, IDF (Israel Defence Force) troops returned two shepherds to Red Cross representatives through the Quneitra Crossing, in accordance with an Israeli government directive,” a statement from the army said.
Israeli troops apprehended the shepherds several weeks ago after they crossed the so-called “Alpha” armistice line from Syria into Israeli-ruled territory.
They were caught east of the Israeli-constructed security fence on the Golan Heights, said the statement.
The state-run Syrian news agency (SANA) confirmed the release.
“Today, Syrian prisoners Mohammed Ahmed Hussein and Tarek Ghassab al-Obaidan, a resident of Quneitra governorate, were released as part of the Syrian state’s efforts to free its citizens from Israeli occupation prisons,” the agency said.
The news of the shepherds comes amid reports of Russian-mediated negotiations between Israel and Syria for the release of a young Israeli woman who entered Syria by mistake.
Israeli media reports said that top Israeli officials have travelled to Moscow to negotiate the release of the Israeli woman, who was arrested in Syria, in exchange for the shepherds’ freedom.