Israel said to have used Covid vaccines as bargaining tool in Syria prisoner swap
Russia mediated deal in which Israeli woman was exchanged for two Syrian shepherds
Israel secured coronavirus vaccines for the Syrian regime as part of a Russian-mediated prisoner swap agreed this week, according to an Israeli source and local media reports.
The source, who requested anonymity, did not state the number of vaccines, or whether they were from Israel’s own supply. Barak Ravid, an Israeli reporter, wrote on Twitter that the country had paid Russia $1.2m (£850,000) for its Sputnik V vaccine as part of the deal, citing “foreign sources”.
The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced on Friday that a young Israeli woman who crossed the border into Syria was heading back to the country. In return, the Israeli government had returned two Syrian shepherds it had been holding, he said. It is not clear why the Israeli woman entered Syria.
The press in Israel had initially referred to another unspecified but apparently significant clause in the deal, adding that the country’s military censor had blocked publication. Under Israeli law, the agency can prevent reporting on topics it deems related to security issues.
The Times of Israel website said a “central aspect of the agreement” had been barred by the censor “despite the fact that the matter would be seen as deeply controversial to the Israeli public”.