Russia Helps Recover Body of Israeli IDF Soldier MIA for 37 Years

by Avi Abelow

US Citizen and Israeli IDF soldier missing in action (MIA) Zacharya Baumel’s body was recovered and returned to Israel, 37 years after he was declared MIA from the last battle in the 1982 Lebanon war. The IDF spokesman reported that Zacharya’s remains were recovered following a military operation in an undisclosed location, not a negotiation or prisoner swap.

Evidently, two years ago, Israeli PM Netanyahu asked Russian PM Putin to assist in finding Israeli MIAs last seen in battles in Syria. Russia helped find the body and some belongings of Zachary Baumel. PM Putin gave them to PM Netanyahu today upon a visit of Netanyahu to Moscow.

Below is an interview from 2008 with Yona Baumel, Zacharya’s father. Yona Baumel passed away in 2009 and did not live to see the return of his son’s body.

After 37 years, Israel found and brought back home the remains of one of the three missing soldiers killed in the Sultan Jacob battle from the first Lebanon war in 1982, Zechariah Baumal may he rest in peace. Israel leaves no man behind and never stopped searching. Prime Minister Netanyahu is set to give an update about this.

“His body is in Israel. The body has been identified. It has been verified,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus tells reporters.

Conricus refused to comment on the specifics of how the remains made their way back to Israel, but stated that they were flown back on an El Al plane.

This wasn’t a prisoner exchange, this was an operation carried out by the military intelligence

Russia has come out stating “We helped Israel look for bodies of soldiers in Syria.” Moscow says one of its officers was injured in an attempt to locate the remains of IDF servicemen in Islamic State-held territory

Image: Israel Prime Minister Office
Image: Israel Prime Minister Office
Image: Israel Prime Minister Office

Zacharya Baumel

Zacharya Baumel immigrated with his parents to Israel from Brooklyn, New York in 1970, later joining a Hesder military unit combining combat service with Jewish studies.

He had nearly completed his service when he was called up to serve in the Lebanon War. On June 11, 1982, he was sent into battle with his unit near the Lebanese village of Sultan Yaqub.

At least 20 Israelis were killed in that battle and 30 wounded, with 3 MIAs: Baumel and fellow soldiers Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, who are still missing.

Sultan Ya’akov Battle

On the night between 10 and 11 June 1982, IDF Armored Battalion 362 entered the Eastern Bekaa in the Sultan Ya’akov section (between the villages of Mazra’at Ghazi and Hamra) to block the “Micha” and “Tubalno” routes. The battalion found itself in an inferior topographical area opposite the Syrian army forces, which were deployed in the areas controlling Hamra, the Sultan Ya’aqoub and Jabal Otefi, alongside the forces of Palestinian terrorist organizations.

On June 11, the battalion began exchanging fire with the enemy. At around 9:00 AM, the battalion began to leave the area in a southward movement to join other forces. The force moved from the Bidar Eladas junction on the “Micha” axis and joined forces that were located on the Jebel Arava and Tal Abu Ammar ridges. Due to the situation on the ground, the battalion left eight tanks in the area, which were taken by the Syrian army and terrorist organizations.

At the end of the battle, the battalion and the additional forces had 20 dead and more than 30 wounded. The three missing persons, members of the crew of two tanks, were involved in two separate events about three kilometers apart: one of them, the combatant Sergeant Yehuda Katz, was missing from the second event, the fighter Sergeant Zvika Feldman, Baumel Hy “d.

Two soldiers were captured: Sergeant Ariel Lieberman was gunned down by the Syrian army and returned in June 1984, and the tank commander Sergeant-First Hezi Shai was returned by the Jibril terror organization in May 1985. In addition, the tank commander, Captain Zohar Lifshitz, was returned by the Syrians.

The multiplicity of missing persons and the difficult battle results, alongside the chaos in the arena, led to disinformation regarding the place where the missing persons were held, their fate and their situation, and a partial intelligence picture regarding this, over many years.

According to credible intelligence at the time, the responsibility for holding the missing was held by palestinian terror elements in the Syrian arena, under the direction and direction of the PLO leadership at the time, headed by Yassar Arafat and Abu Jihad, leading to an ongoing effort to conceal and deceive them.

On June 11, 1982, a picture emerged of an IDF tank being driven through the streets of Damascus with what looked like the person of Zachary Baumel on the tank.

This tank, whose images were published in the West over the years, has nothing to do with the three missing soldiers, but it was one of the reasons that intelligence assessments in the first years regarding the location of the missing persons and their postwar events were not sufficiently established.

PM Netanyahu Speaking with Siblings of Zacharya Baumel

Unfortunately, Zacharaya’s father, Yona Baumel, passed away 10 years ago and did not live to see this day. Here is a touching article written about him after his passing. Zacharaya’s father and mother traveled the world trying to generate awareness for the Israeli MIAs and get world leaders to help them find information to find them.

Ramallah Lynch 20 Years Later
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