Report: Snag in Prisoner Swap After First Phase Done

YERUSHALAYIM -

After the first phase of a Russia-mediated prisoner exchange between Israel and Syria reportedly went ahead on Wednesday, a problem arose that could delay completion of the deal for several days.

The Walla news site quoted Israeli officials saying that the deal is being held up by the refusal of the two Syrian prisoners held in Israel to be deported to Syria.

However, the officials believe the issue will be resolved and the deal will be completed in the coming days.

Earlier, on Wednesday evening, an imprisoned resident of the Israeli Golan Heights involved in the exchange said she had been released by Israeli authorities, according to The Times of Israel.

Nihal al-Maqt, one of two prisoners reportedly to be swapped for an Israeli woman who was arrested by the Syrians after she accidentally crossed the border, told Syrian Al-Ikhbariya news: “I am now free in my homeland.” Al-Maqt was convicted in 2017 by an Israeli court for incitement.

She claimed that she had refused an Israeli offer to release her unconditionally if she would to go to Damascus, instead insisting she be allowed to live in the Golan, and her demand was accepted.

Al-Maqt told the broadcaster she salutes “President Bashar al-Assad.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel is “in the midst of a sensitive negotiation, working to save lives.”

“I am using my ties with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to solve the problem,” he added, in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday.

National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and hostage negotiation coordinator Yaron Bloom flew to Moscow on Wednesday to complete the negotiations.

Further details as they emerge.


Updated Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 2:01 pm .