A 25-year-old Israeli man who had crossed into Lebanon from Israel about a month ago was repatriated by UNIFIL forces following negotiations, the Israeli military reported on Thursday.
The negotiations for his return "were handled quietly and carefully" while he remained in Lebanon, according to IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav.
He crossed into the territory on foot via Rosh Hanikra, Kochav said, and "returned unharmed and in good health."
The man is identified as a civilian resident of the south with a criminal record and known mental health issues. He is believed to have traveled to Lebanon earlier this month of his own volition.
The man had intended to get to Lebanon in order to make contact with Hezbollah. After crossing, he was stopped by various security forces in Lebanon – likely Hezbollah members – who took him in for questioning.
After questioning him, the Lebanese officials also came to the conclusion that he is mentally ill, and after a request from United Nations representatives to the Lebanese officials, the two sides began their discussions, and he was returned to Israel.
It is still unknown who he met with during his stay there, and he has since been transferred to Shin Bet questioning. The IDF spokesman said that he could not discuss whether Hezbollah knew of the Israeli man's presence in the country.
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IDF field observers spotted the man when he crossed over, but the military not stop him.
This is not the first time this year that an Israeli citizen has managed to slip through the largely unfenced border with Lebanon, after a woman from the religious West Bank settlement of Modi'in Ilit made the journey in February.
In exchange for her release, Israel purchased hundreds of thousands of Russian-made COVID vaccines for Syria and nullified the sentence of a Druze woman from the Golan Heights who was ordered to perform community service and repatriated two shepherds to Syria.
Security sources claim that the negotiations to return this Israeli citizen did not include a deal, and that nothing was given or will be given to the Lebanese side in exchange for the civilian's return.