Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the foot of Zachary Baumel's coffin in Moscow, April 4, 2019

Israel will release two Syrians held in Israeli prisons as a goodwill gesture to Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russia’s key role in the recovery and return of the remains of IDF MIA Sgt. Zachary Baumel.

Baumel went missing in 1982 during a battle in Lebanon 37 years ago. His remains were returned to Israel earlier this month.

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The Russian army, together with the Syrians, found Baumel’s burial place.

Israel will release Hamis Ahmad, 35, a Fatah terrorist who was caught in the Golan Heights in 2005 while attempting to carry out a terror attack against IDF soldiers. He was set to be released in 2023.

The second man to be released is Zidan Tawil, 57, a drug dealer who was imprisoned after being convicted of trafficking. He was set to be released this summer.

The decision to release the two was made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in consultation with the required legal authorities. Officials in Jerusalem noted that the release was not part of a deal and that the decision to release the two was made after Baumel’s return.

The Ministry of Justice stated that a few days after Baumel’s funeral, Attorney General Avicahi Mandelblit was asked by government officials to express his opinion on the possibility of releasing two Syrian prisoners held in custody through an amnesty from President Reuven Rivlin, as a goodwill gesture.

“In light of the various facts and circumstances of the case, as presented to the Attorney General, it was determined that in the circumstances of the case there is no legal impediment to working for release in this manner,” the ministry said.

UPDATE: The IDF stated Sunday that it has transferred the two Syrians released as a goodwill gesture to Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Red Cross at the Qunetra crossing on the border with Syria.

The two were released after Russia’s key role in the recovery and return of the remains of IDF MIA Sgt. Zachary Baumel.

Baumel went missing in 1982 during a battle in Lebanon 37 years ago. His remains were returned to Israel earlier this month.

The Russian army, together with the Syrians, found Baumel’s burial place.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.