Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday, thanking him for his help in releasing an Israeli couple being held in the country for eight days on suspicion of espionage.

Bennett reportedly referred to the matter as a humanitarian issue.

It was the first conversation between the two leaders and the first time an Israeli prime minister spoke with the Turkish president in nearly a decade, reported Ynet.

Mordy and Natalie Oknin were detained on Nov. 12 by Turkish security forces for photographing Erdoğan’s residence from the observation deck of Istanbul’s Küçük Çamlıca TV Radio Tower, which provides a panoramic view of the city. According to the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency, a member of the staff at the tower’s restaurant heard the Hebrew speakers and alerted the authorities.

Following their arrest, the Israeli government began an intense diplomatic effort to secure their release. Talks with the Turks were conducted via several channels, in coordination with Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the Mossad and the National Security Council.

The couple returned to Israel early Thursday morning via a private jet dispatched by the Israeli government.

“Thank you to the prime minister and the foreign minister. Thank you to the president. Thank you to the people of Israel,” said the Oknins from their Modi’in home.


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