Operation Bittersweet Song: IDF Returns Body of Soldier Missing for 37 Years

Saul Bowman
April 7, 2019

Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Zachary Baumel, who went missing at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019.

Speculation is that the mission was assisted by Russian Federation, which has said previously that it helped Israel search for missing soldiers' remains in Syria.

"Over the last years, there were significant developments and the opportunity arose to locate the body and these efforts have been ongoing for over the last years, obviously under the current chief of staff and his predecessor as well", Conricus said.

Baumel had been missing since what is known as the Battle of Sultan Yacoub.

The return of the remains of soldiers missing in action is a highly important issue in Israel, which has fought repeated wars with its Arab neighbors since its 1948 founding.

"Zachary, after 37 years, a few days before the battle where you fell, you wrote to your parents, 'Don't worry, everything's alright, but it looks like I won't be home soon, ' " said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in his eulogy.

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

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, bringing closure to a family of a deceased Israeli soldier.

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

The military confirmed it was still working to secure the return of the other two missing soldiers.

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

"Israel appealed to Russian Federation with a request for help finding the remains of Israeli servicemen located at specific coordinates in Syria".

The bodies of all three soldiers were believed to be held by Palestinian organizations in Syria.

But an Israeli newspaper reported a year ago that their bodies were believed to be buried in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, in southern Damascus, which Syrian troops recaptured from Islamic State (IS) militants that May. The Israeli media reported that Russian Federation was involved in the retrieval of the remains, though it was not officially confirmed.

In 2016, Russian Federation returned a tank to Israel from the same battle.

"I would like to thank you, on behalf of the people of Israel, on behalf of the soldiers of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), and on behalf of the mothers and fathers of all our soldiers", Netanyahu said at the ceremony in remarks released by his office. "He was returned in a military operation", said IDF spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manlis.

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