Israel has announced the release of two prisoners — one of whom was convicted of spying for Syria — as part of a swap deal brokered by Russia.
Sidqi al-Maqt, from the Druze community in the annexed Golan Heights, was jailed in 2015 to 11 years for spying, treason, contact with a foreign agent and transfer of information for Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime.
He had already spent several years behind bars in Israel for spying.
Some 23,000 Druze still live on the part of the Golan Heights seized from Syria by Israel in 1967 and later annexed
“Security prisoner Sidqi Al-Maqt will be released tomorrow, January 10, before the scheduled end of his imprisonment,” Israeli prison officials said in a statement late Thursday.
Authorities also announced the early release of another Golan Heights resident, Amal Abu Salah, who was jailed for the murder of a Syrian who crossed the Israeli border and had been due to remain behind bars until 2023.
Syrian national hero #Sidqi al Maqt refuses release from zionist prisons, after rejecting #Israeli demands that he be exiled for 20 years from his native occupied #Syrian #Golan pic.twitter.com/qEm0r48xJX
— tim anderson (@timand2037) December 2, 2019
The early releases are a “gesture of goodwill” after the repatriation to Israel last year of the remains of Zachary Baumel, an Israeli soldier missing since the 1982 Battle of Sultan Yacoub in the Lebanon War, Israel said.
Israeli authorities had promised the release of two Syrian prisoners after the repatriation of the remains.
— tim anderson (@timand2037) January 10, 2020
According to Israeli media, the release of Sidqi al-Maqt and Amal Abu Salah was delayed because the two men wanted to return to the town of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, rather than to Syria.
Some 23,000 Druze still live on the part of the Golan Heights seized from Syria by Israel in 1967 and later annexed.
Part of the Druze population in the Golan still consider themselves Syrian.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk.