Israel free two as 'goodwill' for soldier's remains

The move follows Israel's release in April of two Syrian prisoners, which it also called a goodwill gesture for the return of Baumel's body

Representative image. (Pixabay Photo)

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 of the body of a long-missing Israeli soldier last year.

Russia, a key ally of Syria, in April handed Israel the remains and personal effects of Zachary Baumel, who was declared missing in action along with two other Israeli soldiers following a 1982 tank battle with Syrian forces in Lebanon.

Israel's prime minister's office said the two men released are from Majdal Shams, a Druze village in Golan Heights territory Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed in a move not recognized internationally.

Sidqi al-Maqt was jailed in 2015 "for treason and espionage, support for terrorism and contact with a hostile organisation", and Amal Abu Saleh the same year "for killing a Syrian civilian", Israel's Prisons Service said in a statement.

Maqt, 53, had been sentenced to 11 years in prison for spying for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Prisons Service spokeswoman said.

The move follows Israel's release in April of two Syrian prisoners, which it also called a goodwill gesture for the return of Baumel's body after it was discovered by Russian special forces in Syria.

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