Israel has agreed to purchase coronavirus vaccines for Syria as part of a prisoner swap deal in which Russia has mediated, various international outlets report.
Tel Aviv is negotiating the return of a 25-year-old Israeli woman who has been identified as a resident of the Modiín Ilit settlement, detained in the Arab country after crossing the border in a poorly guarded area on February 2.
For its part, the Israeli Army returned two prisoners to Syria on Friday through representatives of the Red Cross in the framework of the dialogue to free that woman. The deal it may also include the release of two prisoners of Syrian origin, Nihal al Maqt and Ziyab Qahmuz, originally from the Syrian Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967 and annexed in 1981.
The deal, closed last week and confirmed by an Israeli source who requested anonymity, establishes the payment of 1.2 million dollars by Israel to Russia for the country to send vials of the Sputnik V vaccine to Syria. While it is unclear how many doses were purchased, the deal is highly controversial, mostly because it is not known whether the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus will distribute them equally.
The agreement has put Isarel’s vaccination policy back at the center of controversy, which has been accused of failing to provide doses of vaccines to the millions of Palestinians living under its control. Controversy flared up again when the agreement to secure hundreds of thousands of doses for an enemy state was known.
On Saturday, the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed reports of the deal saying “not a single dose of Israel’s vaccines was used,” but he did not comment on whether his government had paid for Moscow’s supply.
Netanyahu had previously said that the deal involved the repatriation of a young Israeli who crossed the border into Syria. In exchange, his government had returned two Syrian herders it had been holding.
The negotiation on the return of prisoners comes days after the latest Israeli airstrike on Syrian territory, often targeting military targets and Lebanese or Iranian Shiite militias allied to the Damascus regime.
Last day 15, Israeli missiles hit a barracks in the mountains surrounding the Damascus-Beirut highway, where there are warehouses of weapons and missiles belonging to the Iranians and loyalist militias, causing the death of at least 9 fighters from those groups.