(April 29, 2019 / JNS) In a gesture meant to express gratitude for the return earlier this month of the remains of an Israeli soldier killed during the First Lebanon War, Israel released two Syrian prisoners back to Syria on Sunday.
The two men were identified as Zidan Tweil, a drug-smuggler, and Hamis Ahmad, a Fatah operative who attempted to attack Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers 14 years ago.
The remains of Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel were recovered, with the help of Russia, from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, and laid to rest at the Mount Herzl military cemetery on April 4. His personal effects, including his tzitzit, were presented to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a state ceremony in Moscow and subsequently returned to Baumel’s family.
Baumel was just 21 years old when he was declared missing in action following the 1982 Battle of Sultan Yacoub.
The family of another missing Israel soldier, Hadar Goldin, who is believed to have been killed by Hamas during the 2014 Gaza war, issued a statement condemning the prisoner release, saying news of the decision “breaks our hearts, because we learn from them that Netanyahu once again missed an opportunity to return Oron [Shaul, another soldier believed to have been killed by Hamas in the 2014 war] and Hadar as part of a broad international exchange, precisely against the backdrop of the return of Sgt. Zachary Baumel.”
“Instead of Prime Minister Netanyahu advancing effective pressure on Hamas to bring about a prisoner exchange agreement with Hamas, too, as part of the broader international exchange, he decided to sentence us to uncertainty and emotional suffering,” the statement said.
“We expect Netanyahu to stand by his promises to IDF soldiers and their families, and return Hadar and Oron as a precondition for any arrangement with Gaza and the Arab world.”