Israel buries remains of soldier recovered by Russian forces in Syria

Geraldine Edwards
April 7, 2019

The body of Brooklyn-born Sgt. Zachary Baumel was repatriated to Israel several days ago via a third country.

Since their disappearance, Israel has worked to gather information and explore diplomatic channels to retrieve the soldiers' remains as part of a mission called "Operation Bittersweet Song".

"According to Conricus, "[Israel's] efforts to locate the other missing-in-action soldiers continue".

Baumel was serving as a staff sergeant in the 362nd Armored Battalion of the 399th Brigade.

Netanyahu said he notified the family that Baumel's remains will be flown back to Israel.

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Some 20 Israeli soldiers were killed in the battle.

Baumel, Feldman and Katz were officially declared missing, and two other soldiers were taken captive and later returned to Israel in a prisoner exchange.

The military quoted from Baumel's last postcard to his family in Israel, which read: "Don't worry, everything is okay, but it looks like I won't be home for a while". Some said they might have survived the fighting and been captured.

"Over the previous year there were significant developments and the opportunity arose to locate the body".

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Israel's visiting prime minister Thursday that the Russian military helped locate the remains of an Israeli soldier missing since 1982 with Syrian assistance, while Damascus denied any knowledge of the matter.

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Netanyahu, 69, is running in the April 9 vote despite facing potential corruption charges and experts said he hoped the Moscow visit will increase his chances of success on election day.

Putin said only that Syria - with which Israel has technically been at war - participated in the operation.

The military did not indicate whether Russian Federation was involved in the diplomatic efforts to return the remains.

"For many years we prayed for the safe return of Zachary Baumel", U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said on Twitter on Wednesday.

In 2016, Russian Federation returned a tank to Israel from the same battle. -Gen. Ronen Manelis said on Wednesday. He said that their remains had been transferred to Syria after the 1982 battle.

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As the Baumel case takes prominence in the media, and Netanyahu uses his platform to promote it as an Israeli victory, opponents will find it more hard to raise criticisms or the corruption cases that have been hounding the premier, Mendel predicted. "Today, we can say with full faith, that we do everything-even the inconceivable and the unbelievable-to fulfill our oath: to bring home our soldiers who did not return from battle".

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