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Israeli woman rescued from Syria found after fleeing welfare program – report

25-year-old, who’s facing trial for illegally exiting the country after she crossed the northern border earlier this year, is discovered in Bedouin community in southern Israel

The Israeli woman who crossed into Syria and was returned in a deal brokered by Russia, in a picture shown by Channel 13 on February 20, 2021 (Channel 13 screenshot)
The Israeli woman who crossed into Syria and was returned in a deal brokered by Russia, in a picture shown by Channel 13 on February 20, 2021 (Channel 13 screenshot)

An Israeli woman who crossed into Syria earlier this year and was returned in a Russia-brokered swap has fled the Welfare Ministry-run program where she was being treated. She was later found in southern Israel, according to a television report.

The welfare program notified the state prosecution that she left without notice, and police conducted searches for her as she is currently facing trial, the Kan public broadcaster reported on Monday.

She was located on Tuesday morning in one of southern Israel’s rural Bedouin communities in the Negev desert and was transferred back to authorities, the network reported.

In February the woman’s crossing into Syria became a major international incident. She was returned to Israel via Russia after over a week of diplomatic wrangling, but at a steep cost that included the release of Syrian captives in Israel, and reportedly involved Israel buying vaccines for Syria.

She was indicted for her actions on charges including illegally exiting the country.

The woman, whose identity is barred from publication, is reported to be a 25-year-old from Modiin Illit who left the ultra-Orthodox community and speaks Arabic.

After the woman was returned, she reportedly told Israeli investigators that she had been “seeking adventure.” According to Channel 12, she did not apologize or express regret for the trip. Investigators determined that she did not cooperate with any enemy entities while in Syria.

The Israeli woman who crossed into Syria and was returned in a deal brokered by Russia, in a photo shown by Channel 12 on February 20, 2021. (Channel 12 screenshot)

Her Facebook page shows her traveling often inside Israel, including in several Arab areas, and in the West Bank. In one post, she wrote, “I don’t recognize your lines, either green or blue or purple, and not even a red line will stop me.”

The prosecution said that the Syria incident was not her first time illegally crossing Israel’s borders. She went into Palestinian Authority areas several times, knowing it was not allowed.

In November, she attempted to get into Gaza but was stopped at the fence near Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

She then decided to try to cross into Gaza by sea, and four days later, in the evening, went into the water at Zikim Beach on a surfboard. She was apprehended at sea by the IDF and turned back.

In January, she illegally bicycled across the Jordanian border near Eilat, where she met Jordanian soldiers, had coffee with them and spent several hours with them. She was questioned in Aqaba by Jordanian intelligence, then returned to Israel.

In October 2020, she took a Jeep to the Lebanon border and spoke with people on the other side of the security fence. She was spotted by the Hezbollah terror group and had her picture published in local media.

Her defense has argued that she has not harmed Israeli security and had no intention of doing so.

It was unclear when her trial is expected to take place.

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