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Cabinet holds urgent session on ‘sensitive’ humanitarian issue tied to Syria

A member of the Syrian security forces walks near the border post with Israel in the Syrian town of Quneitra in the Golan Heights on March 26, 2019. (Louai Beshara/AFP)
A member of the Syrian security forces walks near the border post with Israel in the Syrian town of Quneitra in the Golan Heights on March 26, 2019. (Louai Beshara/AFP)

The cabinet just ended an urgent meeting called on short notice to deal with “a sensitive security matter.” Ministers met to discuss a humanitarian issue connected to Syria.

In recent days, top Israeli officials have been in contact with their Russian counterparts regarding the matter, the details of which are barred from publication.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke over the phone about the issue, as did Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu. Other diplomats have also held talks.

A diplomatic reporter for Channel 12 notes that Russia “has influence in Syria” and “it may be that this, too, relates to Russian influence in the Middle East.”

He stresses that this is “a humanitarian issue with diplomatic aspects” but not anything to do with “any IDF attack, nor an escalating security incident.”

Channel 12 says the issue is not related to the bodies of any Israelis in Syria — including soldiers killed in the 1982 Lebanon War, legendary spy Eli Cohen, or missing airman Ron Arad.

Earlier this month, ToI reported that, according to Syrian media, the Russian military had begun searches in a cemetery near a Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus, in attempts to locate the remains of two Israeli soldiers missing since 1982.

Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz went missing in the 1982 First Lebanon War’s battle of Sultan Yacoub, along with Zachary Baumel, whose remains were recovered and returned to Israel in 2019.

The Yarmouk refugee camp, home to one of the largest Palestinian refugee communities in Syria and the site of the remains of Baumel, was once again being searched for remains by the Russian military, the Syrian Capital Voice site reported. The unverified report said the search would include DNA testing.

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