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Israel Releases Convicted Spy, Apparently as Part of Goodwill Deal

Israel on Friday released the second of two residents of the Golan Heights who had been jailed for security offenses, apparently as a gesture of goodwill toward Russia, which last April assisted in repatriating the body of an Israeli soldier who had gone missing during 1982 fighting in Lebanon. One of the two released prisoners, both from the Golan Druse village of Majdal Shams, had been convicted of spying for Syria. Russia is a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and some of its troops are reported to have located the body of the missing soldier, Zachary Baumel, a dual national of Israel and the United States, in a grave near Damascus. Israel and Russia have had scrapes over the former’s insistence on free rein in attacking its enemies inside Syria, while the two countries are currently involved in a standoff over the imprisonment in Russia of a young Israeli-American woman caught with a small amount of marijuana in her bags while in the transit lounge at Moscow’s international airport. It is believed that she is part of a political tug of war over a Russian hacker in Israeli custody being sought for extradition by the United States.