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Copyright 1993 Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem Post

December 8, 1993


BYLINE: Batsheva Tsur

THE US Congressional mission that will investigate the fate of the six missing Israeli soldiers will leave for Damascus within the next few weeks, Secretary of State Warren Christopher told the families of four of the MiAs at a meeting in Jerusalem yesterday.

Christopher met with the parents of Yehuda Katz, Zvi Feldman and Zecharia Baumel, missing since the battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, and separately with Tami Arad, wife of navigator Ron Arad, the IDF navigator shot down over Lebanon six years ago. He did not meet with the families of Rahamim Alsheikh and Yossi Fink, whom Arab sources have said are dead.

"The secretary said he had no new information, but that the Syrian government has offered to facilitate the investigations of the congressional team," Yona Baumel, Zacharia's father, told a press conference after the meeting. "He did not give us the date when the team would leave, but we expect it will be after the New Year holidays, Christopher came across as a very warm and humane person."

Baumel said that it was understood the Syrians would provide logistical assistance to the team and help it make contact with those who may be holding the MIAs.

"This is more than a sign. It is the first time since June 11, 1982, that a diplomat has brought us good news," said Yossi Katz, Yehuda's father. "We have waited so long, and I believe the mystery will now be solved." He said the families had the sense that the solution would be "positive."

Tami Arad refused to meet the media, saying that "the secretary of state will speak for me."

Zvi Feldman's mother Pnina asked Christopher to take a letter to Syrian President Hafez Assad on his return to Damascus.

"My motherly instincts tell me that my son is alive, and I believe that the only one who can help me now is you, Mr. President," she wrote. "I cannot even start describing to you the agony during these years, day by day ... We are ready to travel anywhere in the world for a piece of information."

Miriam Baumel told The Jerusalem Post that "we have had to learn to speak unemotionally in public. Since I couldn't cry over all the years that my son has been missing, when Zak is in my arms, am I going to flood him!"

She took to task those persons who are "adamant against contacts with the PLO," saying: "If they were in our position, I'm sure they'd think differently. We must not concern ourselves with political matters, but with the redemption of the prisoners."

Meanwhile, a massive poster campaign has been mounted throughout the Tel Aviv area by the International Association for Missing Israeli Soldiers and the National Union of Israeli Students. "In the spirit of peace, release our boys," say the posters which show the eyes of the six missing soldiers.

Ads have also been placed in the local press and posters have been sent to embassies and Jewish institutions in Europe and North America.

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