How does Israel’s decision to give Assad two prisoners square with the fierce Russian-Iranian struggle over Syria?

Russia’s envoy to Damascus, Alexander Lavrentiev, disclosed on Friday that Israel had decided to release some jailed Syrian citizens after the Israel MIA Zachary Baumel’s remains were recovered on April 4  “with the agreement of the Syrian government.” The diplomat did not say how many, although Israeli sources name two: Palestinian Fatah activist Hamis Ahmad from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria who was caught in 2025 attempting to blow up an IDF base in the southern Golan. He was tried and sentenced to imprisonment up until 2023; and Zidan Tawil, from the village of Khader opposite the Israeli Hermon slopes, who was caught smuggling drugs into Israel. He was due for release in July after serving an 11-year sentence.

Lavrentiev presented this exchange as an Israeli-Syrian deal mediated by Russia, while stressing that the recovery of the Israeli soldier after he was missing for 36 years “was an act of interest for the Syrian side.” He added: “We will not do anything that is contrary to Syria’s interests, but only things that serve them.” An Israeli official commented anonymously that the release of the two prisoners was a goodwill gesture.”

From the epic events quietly going forward in Syria at the moment, DEBKAfile’s sources gather that this incident was no more than diplomatic window dressing to show Syrian Bashar Assad as willing to make human gestures to Israel, despite Washington’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan on March 25.

But, according to our sources, Assad was not exactly consulted by Moscow over this gesture; he is too deep in his own troubles to care about Russia’s side games. His regime is flailing under the siege imposed by the Trump administration and the economy is falling apart. Motorists in Damascus wait an average of 19 hours in line for a few liters of gas with devastating impact on the flow of essential items to the population.
Moscow is no help in alleviating Assad’s distress. The Russians are currently fully engaged in a tussle with Iran over a grab for military and economic footholds in the beleaguered country.

On this contest too, Russian ambassador Lavrentiev was enlisted to spread some false leads. One was his contention that despite America’s “provocations,” Iran is standing by its bargain to maintain its forces 75-80km away from the Israeli border. DEBKAfile\s military and intelligence sources note that the distances cited have nothing to do with Tehran’s intentions. Iranian forces are simply being ruthlessly pushed by the Russians out of one strategic foothold after another in Syria. Recently, Moscow stepped in hard to prevent Assad handing over to Iran responsibility for the maritime base in Latakia, near the Russian Khmeimim Air Base.

Russia’s drive to expel Iran from its positions of influence in Syria is not so much another act of goodwill towards Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and arising from a convergence of Russian and Israeli interests at this point. Israel and the IDF are the beneficiaries of the Russian-Iranian struggle for supremacy in Syria, while able to stand aside. But there is no guarantee that Tehran won’t at some time in the future turned the tables on the Russians and stage a comeback.

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13 thoughts on “How does Israel’s decision to give Assad two prisoners square with the fierce Russian-Iranian struggle over Syria?

  • Apr 27, 2019 @ 21:09 at 21:09
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    Great article and at some future point Iran and Russia are not compatible. Sooner or later this will result in accusations of Betrayal by both Totalitarian States. Russia’s History is well recorded on turning on Neighbors Nations such as Siberia, Ukraine and Poland. When Stalin signed a Non-Aggression Pacts with Germany and Japan and supplied the Nazi with Oil as both Invaded and Divided Poland. While Japan did not sink one Russian Supply Ship as America and Allies sent Supplies, Weapons, Trucks later to Russia by way of the Pacific to Fight Hitler after he Invaded Russia. Russia will do what is in the Best Interests of Russia! Iran Regime has No Idea how to Rule Iran and will squander opportunities to help the Persian People as a Theocracy Totalitarian Regime. Both will play each other as Time Goes By!

  • Apr 27, 2019 @ 21:12 at 21:12
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    Reading the first paragraph of this article I felt Like I was trapped in a time-warp!!

  • Apr 27, 2019 @ 21:23 at 21:23
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    “Hamis Ahmad from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria who was caught in 2025”

    COOL! I didnt know we had invented a time machine :)) I want a ride!!

    • Apr 27, 2019 @ 21:25 at 21:25
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      ” He was tried and sentenced to imprisonment up until 2023″

      Hold on a second!
      Why is Israel releasing him prior to catching him??????????

      • Apr 28, 2019 @ 20:16 at 20:16
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        Iranian high command in emergency session due to invention of time machine by Israel

        • Apr 29, 2019 @ 0:11 at 0:11
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          2005 probably a typo

  • Apr 27, 2019 @ 22:43 at 22:43
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    🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿 🏿
    Big Iranian interpretation error first time reported right here this Apr. 27th:

    Not in any case “75-80km away from the Israeli border”, instead the Iranian thinking should be “75-80km inside the Iranian borders”.

    Please also note – the very old age dementia is a common issue at around 80 like some khamenei peoples born in 1939.
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Apr 27, 2019 @ 23:37 at 23:37
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      The Iranian Shiia Regime Suffers from a Thirsts so Great it can Never be Quenched over an Old Blood Feud of 632 CE! This Regime Pays Others to Fight and Die for Middle Est Chaos so the Regime can remain in Power to develop Weapons when no one will recognize the Debris of Atomic Ashes! All of Iran’s Remarkable Cultures must Rise Up against this Regime seeking a return to the Ancient Dark Ages instead of a New Middle East Millennium! Russia will play a Role in the regime’s Demise when they choose to do it?

  • Apr 28, 2019 @ 1:01 at 1:01
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    Fascist Dictator NuttyYahoo can’t decide whose A$$ to kiss more decidedly–his benefactors in Russia or the Dotard and his crew.

    Leave it the fake news promoters here at #MossadJagoffCentral involve Iran in a prisoner-swap between the terrorist squatters and Syrian state, mediated by Putin.

    It shows you they’re more terrified of Persia than balloons!

    • Apr 28, 2019 @ 18:30 at 18:30
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      @spider :fascist netanyahu:it is the rethorics of the islamist terrorists,you are probably one of them,either of s a or iran

    • Apr 28, 2019 @ 19:22 at 19:22
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      lame and lamer. go back to pleasuring yourself, troll.

  • Apr 28, 2019 @ 2:12 at 2:12
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    Alternating pluses and minuses, here. Iranian economy is sinking. But, Iran seems still confident that it can reach an understanding with Russia about how much influence the revolutionary regime should have in Syria. America’s investigation of Russia could lead to increased problems for Russia, and the Kremlin will decide it needs any friends it can get. However, Russia may renew its aggression against Ukraine and threaten other nations. In that case, the Kremlin won’t want a lot of problems in southwestern Asia.

  • Apr 28, 2019 @ 19:30 at 19:30
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    latakia is just russian payback for the downing of the il-20 last september.

    no matter what they said publicly, it was shot down because the iranians tried to use the russians for cover. and the russians do not want them to play that game again, so they had a choice between clearing them out themselves, or letting israel do it.

    iranian involvement in syria jeopardizes russia’s bases there, so in the long term it’s in russia’s interests to block them, one way or the other.

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