Body of Israeli soldier who went missing in 1982 repatriated after 37 years

Body of Israeli soldier who went missing in 1982 repatriated after 37 years

President Reuven Rivlin said First Sergeant Zachary Baumel's body being returned was “moving and painful”

First Sergeant Zachary Baumel,
First Sergeant Zachary Baumel,

The body of an Israeli soldier captured during the First Lebanon War has finally been returned to Israel 37 years after he went missing in action, in an operation believed to have been supported by Russia.

First Sergeant Zachary Baumel, an IDF tank commander who was born in Brooklyn, was captured during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub on 11 June 1982, in fighting between Syria and Israel.

Four other Israeli soldiers were captured that day and 20 were killed. Until Baumel’s return on Wednesday, he was one of three still missing in action.

President Reuven Rivlin said the soldier’s return was “moving and painful,” adding that “37 unbearable years of painful waiting, of questions and doubts have come to an end thanks to the determined and ceaseless work of the IDF and Israel’s intelligence community.”

IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the body had been returned to Israel on an El Al flight via an anonymous third country earlier this week and had now been “identified and verified” as that of Baumel. The soldier’s family has been informed.

Rivlin said: “On this difficult, moving and sad day, our thoughts are with the Baumel family, crying and hurting with them as they bring their son Zachary to eternal rest in our country, our land.

“We will not cease until all our soldiers have returned home – First Sergeant Yehuda Katz, First Sergeant Zvika Feldman and all those missing in action and whose place of burial is not known. Our commitment to our soldiers has always been, and will always be, a shining light. We go to battle together, and together we return from it.”

Although Israeli officials refused to confirm Russia role, Russian defense ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in September that Moscow was working with its Syrian allies to help locate fallen Israeli soldiers.

The First Lebanon War was launched by Israel’s Ariel Sharon to push back against elements of the Palestine Liberation Organisation operating in the country’s south. By 1985 it had claimed over 600 Israeli lives. US Army analysts described it as “a costly failure”.

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