(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Damascus, Tel Aviv Exchange ‘Goodwill’ Gestures
An Israeli official said Tel Aviv decided in the past few days to release two Syrian prisoners as a goodwill gesture after the return of the remains of Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel.
Baumel went missing during in a battle between Israeli and Syrian forces in Sultan Yaqub during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. His remains were recovered by Russian forces in Syria and returned to Israel earlier this month.
A Syrian regime source told Reuters that authorities had pressured Moscow to secure the prisoners’ release after news emerged that the Israeli soldier’s remains were being handed over.
Israel’s Prison Service identified the two prisoners as Ahmed Khamis and Zidan Taweel.
Khamis, from a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, was a member of the Palestinian Fatah group and was jailed in 2005 after he tried to infiltrate an Israeli military base in order to carry out an attack.
Taweel, from the Syrian Druze village of Hader, was jailed in 2008 for drug smuggling.
Meanwhile, Syria’s representative to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari said on Saturday that “Turkey’s occupation is four times larger than Israel’s and that Turkey’s negative attitude to Syria is thus four times worst than Israel.”
He compared the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights to Ankara’s “occupation” of Syrian territory in the North. He charged that Turkey was occupying some 6,000 kms of Syrian land, encompassing Afrin and Idlib.
He also accused it of constructing 70-km wall south of Manbij to separate it from Aleppo and imposing a Turkish curriculum at schools.