TEL AVIV – Thirty-seven years after he was killed, an Israeli soldier whose body was recovered after a decades-long intelligence mission was due to be buried in Jerusalem on Thursday evening.
In 1982, Sgt. First Class Zachary Baumel, who was also a U.S. citizen, went missing in action along with five other Israeli soldiers during the First Lebanon War’s bloody Sultan Yacoub battle against the Syrian army in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley at the age of 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday confirmed that the Russian army, aided by Syria, had recovered Baumel’s body.
Several years after the war, two of the missing soldiers were returned to Israel alive as part of prisoner exchange deals with Syria. Baumel and the others’ fate remained a mystery but they are believed to have been killed in battle.
Baumel’s parents, New York natives who moved in Jerusalem, launched a years-long search and rescue campaign to find their son.
During a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was meeting with him in Moscow Thursday, Putin said his country’s military had located Baumel’s remains. “Russian Army soldiers found the body in coordination with the Syrian military,” he said.
Netanyahu attended an official Russian Defense Ministry ceremony, attended by Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, in Moscow. During the ceremony, Netanyahu was presented with Baumel’s personal effects in a casket draped with an Israeli flag, including the soldier’s jumpsuit and military boots.
PM Netanyahu attended an official Russian Defense Ministry ceremony at which he received the remains of Zachary Baumel’s personal effects.
PM Netanyahu thanked Russian President Putin & the Defense Ministry for the effort to bring Zachary Baumel for Jewish burial after 37 years pic.twitter.com/RrKqWAjQUo
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) April 4, 2019
“This emotional day, and this moving ceremony, give further expression to the special bond between the Russian people and the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said.
“We will never forget the enormous sacrifice of the Russian people and the Red Army in saving humanity and in saving the Jewish people from the Nazi monster,” Netanyahu said. “Hundreds of thousands of Jews fought heroically in the ranks of the Red Army and many of them we are now familiar with in Israel. They still wear their medals, and many others helped establish the IDF.”
“It warms the heart,” Netanyahu continued, “to see the partnership of values, of honoring soldiers, of the fellowship of soldiers, of comrades-in-arms, and the important principle of never leaving anyone behind.”
Baumel’s funeral was scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, the IDF said.