In return for the release of an Israeli woman detained in Syria, Israel agreed to finance the supply of hundreds of thousands of Russian Covid-19 vaccines to Syria. According to the daily Haarec, such a ransom could also be used on hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
A 23-year-old Israeli woman was arrested on February 2 for illegally crossing the Syrian border in the Golan Heights. On Thursday, the authorities in Damascus released her from custody, and the Israeli government announced that she was exchanged for two Syrian shepherds detained by Israelis.
A day later, “Haarec” reported that there was an “unusual” condition in the exchange agreement. Disclosure of details was blocked by a military censor as content relating to the army and national security is under its scrutiny prior to publication.
According to the New York Times and the London-based Arabic-language daily Ashark al-Awsat The Israelis agreed to finance an initially unspecified number of vaccines for Syria. According to these sources Israel would pay Russia directly for the Sputnik V vaccines mediating in negotiations between two hostile states that have never established diplomatic relations.
After details of the deal were released by foreign sources, an Israeli censor lifted the earlier ban. In turn, the official Syrian news agency SANA has denied these reports.
Vaccines are being used as a bargaining chip also in the case of two Israeli hostagesincluding one of Ethiopian origin, who have been held by Hamas in Gaza for more than six years. The families of the detained soldiers have been calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for two months to use this kind of medical aid in the negotiations.
“The question now is why (Netanyahu) will not pay a similar price for the Gaza deal, even if Hamas’ demands are greater. Is the blood of a young ultra-Orthodox woman in Syria redder than the blood of an Ethiopian immigrant in Gaza?” – ‘Haarec’, reluctant to the prime minister, asks.
The freed Israeli woman, whose identity has not been revealed, comes from a religious background. However, she left her family and joined the army.
Israel has administered at least one dose of the vaccine to almost half of its population, while Syria, where civil war has been raging for over 10 years, has yet to start a vaccination program.
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