Israel frees 2 Syrian shepherds amid efforts for release of Israeli woman

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JERUSALEM, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — Israel has released two Syrian shepherds, the military said Thursday, amid efforts for the release of an Israeli woman who is being held in Syria.

“In accordance with the Israeli government directive, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) returned two shepherds to Syrian territory,” read a statement issued by the military.

Israeli troops returned the shepherds to Red Cross representatives through the Quneitra Crossing, according to the statement.

Over the past few weeks, Israeli soldiers apprehended the two shepherds in the Golan Heights, an area partly seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, after they crossed the Alpha Line which marks the end of a United Nations buffer zone between Syria and Israel.

Israel has been negotiating a swap deal that includes the release of two Syrian Druzes, a woman and a man, in return for a young Israeli woman who accidentally crossed from Israel into Syria.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been helping to broker the deal.

Israel’s Hebrew-language Ha’aretz newspaper reported that the negotiations are near completion and the woman is expected to be released on Thursday. Enditem

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