IDF Commander: Changing Reality in Syria Enabled Baumel's Recovery

IDF Commander: Changing Reality in Syria Enabled Baumel's Recovery

IDF Commander: Changing Reality in Syria Enabled Baumel's Recovery

The new reality in Syria following the civil war in the country created an opportunity for the IDF to execute Operation Bittersweet Song to return the remains of MIA Sgt. Zachary Baumel, who has been missing since the First Lebanon War in 1982.

Five Israeli soldiers went missing in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub between Israeli and Syrian forces on 11 June 1982 in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

Israel's military declined to provide details on how the remains were retrieved.

Several years after the war, two of the missing soldiers were returned to Israel alive as part of prisoner exchange deals with Syria.

For decades, the Israeli intelligence community and the MIA Allocation Team have undertaken various intelligence, research, and operational efforts in order to locate and recover the remains of its MIAs.

Rivlin said: "On this hard, 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 boys are back home, including your comrades in arms Sergeant First Class Yehuda Katz and Sergeant First Class Tzvi Feldman, and all those who fell in battle and whose resting place is unknown", Rivlin said.

Netanyahu is in regular contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin in connection with Syria, where Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against what it says are Iranian and Hizbullah targets. "We go to battle together, and together we return from it".

Turning to Putin, the prime minister said: "Two years ago, I asked you to help us find the bodies of missing Israeli soldiers, and you responded in the affirmative".

Israeli Defense Force (IDF) chief of staff Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi also said: "On the shoulders of IDF commanders, whom I lead, there is a great obligation to take care of every soldier who joins the IDF and swears allegiance to Israel".

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.

In 2018, Russian Federation - which Netanyahu is due to visit for talks with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday - said its troops in Syria had been trying to locate the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in previous conflicts.

Yona Baumel, Zachary's father, died 10 years ago; his mother Miriam is in her 80s.

In 2016, an Israeli tank lost in the battle was returned to Israel by Russian Federation. Along with Baumel, soldiers Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman went missing and have not been found.

According to the IDF, the remains of Baumel, Feldman and Katz were believed to be in the control of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Syria. "It comes from an understanding of the importance of our mission and the deep dedication of the IDF and the State of Israel to returning its soldiers from the field of battle", said Lt. Col. Avi Kalo, the head of Military Intelligence's missing persons unit.

Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in September that Moscow was working with its Syrian allies to help locate fallen Israeli soldiers.

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