PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu walks atop an Israeli tank that had been lost during the First Lebanon War, in Moscow yesterday..
(photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged the return of the three missing soldiers from the First Lebanon War’s Battle of Sultan Yacoub as he accepted a tank from the 1982 confrontation at a formal ceremony in Russia on Wednesday.
“This is an emotional moment for me and for all Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said as he stood behind the tank.
He accepted the paperwork that transferred the tank as well as a shard of paper that had been found in it.
“This tank will be a symbol both of our soldiers’ bravery and of the closeness between our two nations,” Netanyahu said.
For the last 34 years the families of the three soldiers missing from the battle – Zachary Baumel, Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz – have not had any way to mourn the loss of their loved ones, the prime minister said.
“Now they will have this tank [from that battle] that they can visit. By touching it they can also touch the memories of their sons,” he said.
“We will continue to seek them. We will not stop until we bring them for burial to Israel,” he said.
He added that Israel was committed to finding its other missing soldiers, such as Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who are believed to have been killed in the 2014 Gaza war, but whose bodies are still in Hamas’s hands.
Netanyahu thanked Putin for the “humanitarian gesture” of returning the tank, which had been transferred years ago to Moscow from Syria.
Eight Israeli tanks were lost and more than 20 soldiers killed in the June 10-11 Battle of Sultan Yacoub against Syrian forces in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
Baumel, Feldman and Katz were in separate tanks during the battle and were not in their vehicles when they disappeared. They, like many other soldiers, had ditched them during the attack. It is believed that they were captured by the Syrians and brought to Damascus.