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Israel purchased Russian Covid vaccine for Syria in exchange for captive: Reports

Order said to be part of a deal which freed an Israeli woman who crossed into Syria through Quneitra a few weeks ago
The Ynet news site reported on Saturday that Israel purchased more than $1m worth of doses of the Sputnik V vaccine (AFP)

Israel is said to have agreed to purchase an unknown number of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine doses for use in Syria in exchange for the release of an Israeli woman who had crossed the border into Syria.

The woman, who crossed into Syria a few weeks ago and was arrested by Syrian intelligence officers, landed in Israel from Russia in the early hours of Friday, after a breakthrough in Russian-mediated negotiations between Israel and Damascus.

The woman was transferred to Russia over the past week, and a private Israeli plane left Tel Aviv on Thursday to retrieve her.

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On Thursday, the Israeli military said it had sent back across the occupied Golan Heights armistice line two Syrian shepherds who had been detained in a security operation. 

According to a report in the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday, Israel is funding the purchase of Sputnik V doses for Damascus as part of the prisoner exchange deal with Syrian government. 

The Ynet news site reported on Saturday that Israel had purchased more than $1m worth of doses of the vaccine. 

Interrogation

According to a preliminary investigation by the Israeli army, the woman crossed the border in an area of Quneitra that does not have a permanent fence and was arrested by Syrian authorities after entering a Druze village. 

She had previously attempted to enter the Gaza Strip but was stopped by the army, the military said, according to Haaretz.

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According to Syria's official Sana news agency, the woman had crossed over into Quneitra province by mistake.

Israel media said the woman is 25 years old and from the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modiin Illit in the occupied West Bank. However, there was no confirmation of her identity from authorities.

It is still unclear what led the woman to cross the border.

Israeli officials say she had studied Arabic and was previously stopped trying to cross the border fence into Gaza.

It is believed the women is being interrogated by the domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet, to assess why she travelled to Syria.