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Copyright 2003 Jerusalem Post
July 3

HEADLINE: 3 Skeletons In Lebanon May Be From 1982 War


The IDF said it was investigating reports that a farmer in south Lebanon had found the skeletal remains of the three missing IDF soldiers-Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman-from the Sultan Yakoub battle in Lebanon 21 years ago. IDF officials said they had been aware of the report for some time and were looking into the matter.

Citing a report on the Nur radio station affiliated with the Hizbullah, Channel One claimed a farmer carrying out agricultural work on a site near the village Hamra in the Bekaa Valley found the bodies. The report said that DNA tests may be carried out on the bodies in the coming days. Daniel Grisaro, spokesman for the International Coalition for Missing Soldiers, told The Jerusalem Post that a month ago he received information that the fate of the three MIA's from Sultan Yakoub was about to be resolved.

Grisaro said he believed that the constant US pressure on the Syrians and demands by Condoleezza Rice to reveal information about the missing soldiers, as well as the law passed in the US Congress demanding that the Syrian government reveal the whereabouts of the soldiers, may have borne fruit. "Three weeks ago we received information that three IDF soldiers were transferred from Damascus to Lebanon," said Grisaro, adding "it was not clear whether the soldiers were dead or alive."

Grisaro said Zachary's father Yona Baumel immediately contacted the Mossad and the Prime Minister's Office after returning from Washington regarding the new details and requested to meet with them. "The Prime Minister refused to meet with Baumel, and when US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Israel two weeks ago the information was passed on to him," he said.

While the recent reports cannot be confirmed, Grisaro said he hoped that finally the saga and suffering of the three families may at long last come to an end. "We demand that the government of Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who, when he was Defense Minister in 1982 and Minister of Infrastructure in 1996 promised the families that once he was elected as Prime Minister he would act to secure the soldiers' return, act immediately," he said. Grisaro added that the coalition would insist that any DNA tests be conducted at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv by local officials and that if the bodies prove to be those of the soldiers and the Syrians and Lebanese insist on striking a deal with Israel for their return, the Coalition will insist that all the MIA's be returned to Israel.

In October 2000, three IDF soldiers-Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Sweid-were abducted by the Hizbullah on Mt.Dov. Hizbullah also claimed to have abducted Israeli businessman Col.(Res.) Elhanan Tannenbaum the same month. Other missing Israelis in Lebanon are Air Force navigator Ron Arad and Guy Hever. Their fate remains unknown.

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