Russia Mediating Israeli-Syrian Prisoner Swap

Russia is mediating a deal for the release of an Israeli girl who accidentally crossed into Syria, in exchange for two Syrians held by Israel, Syrian state media said on Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment on the report by SANA news agency during an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, but said he was using his connections with Russia’s president to deal with a “life-saving situation”.

The report came a day after Israel’s cabinet met in special session to discuss what officials said was a humanitarian issue in which Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was involved.

SANA said that the two Syrians held by Israel were from the Golan Heights, part of which was captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Israeli girl crossed into the area of Quneitra in Syria, in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan, and was arrested by Syrian authorities, SANA said.

“I am using my personal connections with President (Vladimir) Putin to solve the problem. We are in the middle of sensitive contacts,” Netanyahu told Army Radio. “We are acting discreetly and responsibly to handle the matter, and I believe we will solve it.”

The Israel Prisons Service did not respond to a request for comment.

After SANA published its report, Israel’s Kan public radio said Russian mediation was still underway and a plane was carrying Israel’s national security adviser back from talks in Moscow.

Over the past two years, Russia has helped secure the release of four Syrians held by Israel in exchange for the return of the body an Israeli soldier declared missing after a 1982 tank battle with Syrian forces in Lebanon.

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