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Copyright 2004 Jerusalem Post
January 08

HEADLINE: Letter to Bashar Assad from Yona Baumel, father of MIA

Dear President Basher Assad,

For almost 22 years 3 Israeli soldiers Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and my son Zecharia Baumel have been missing-in-action since the battle at Sultan Yakub, Lebanon on June 11, 1982.

Over the years information has trickled in that all or part of these soldiers are being held incommunicado in Syria. Zecharia is also a U.S. citizen and the American Government including several Presidents and Secretaries of State have taken a personal interest in this matter. At first your late father, Hafez al Assad took no responsibility but in later years he admitted to American diplomats that Syria was holding Zecharia but the time was not ripe to divulge facts about him.

During the past several years right down to the present time I have recieved reports from Syria that Zecharia was still alive and being treated well. Current information confirms the basis for our optimism. There is no greater consensus issue in Israel that unites left and right than the case of the missing soldiers.

Today radical changes are taking place in the Near East. What may have not been ripe yesterday can change the face of the area today. Both the U.S. and Israel are committed to do the maximum to help return these boys. In 1999 the U.S. Congress passed the " Zecharia Baumel Act, Public Law 106-89" which called upon the countries in the area to cooperate in returning these soldiers. The bill was signed into law by President Clinton.

Providing information that leads to the return of these soldiers will act as a catalyst to improve Syrian-American relations and to jump-start Syrian-Israeli talks.

In the fall of last year I received a 3-month tourist visa to visit Syria. Unfortunately the specific invitation to meet with a suitable Syrian official did not arrive in time and the visa expired. Both American and Israeli officials knew and approved of this channel. Utilizing my American Passport I am prepared to go anywhere in the world to meet with any designated person to advance this cause.

There are new winds blowing in our area. Now is the time for new, bold actions. I call upon you to act in the compassionate tradition of Islam and help return these boys. The time has come for new relations and there is no better way to begin. These soldiers and their families are waiting for a new dawn.


Yona Baumel

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