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Copyright 1996 The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post

August 2, 1996


BYLINE: Jerusalem Post Staff and news agencies

Yehuda Katz, Zvi Feldman, and Zacharia Baumel, the three soldiers who went missing in the 1982 battle of Sultan Ya'acoub in south Lebanon, are believed to be buried in Syria, security sources said yesterday.

The three, members of a tank crew, were previously believed to have been killed and buried somewhere in Lebanon.

"All the information available to Israel indicates that the three are buried in Syria," one security source said. He did not elaborate.

Israel Radio quoted a senior Palestinian source as saying that their bodies had been taken by ambulance from Sultan Ya'acoub to a Palestinian cemetery in Syria. The source, who quoted three Fatah activists who claimed to have taken the bodies, said the Syrians were not aware that the dead were Israeli soldiers.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he was checking the report.

Labor Party leader Shimon Peres told Israel Radio that the information was neither new nor definite.

"We are speaking in essence of a place on the Syrian border, within Syrian territory, so in the end a lot depends on the Syrians," Peres said. "Look, there is a distance between an assessment and definitive information."

The radio quoted the Palestinian source as saying that the information came from three former gunmen, now living in Jordan, who had said they buried the three soldiers under Palestinian names without letting the Syrians know.

The report said US efforts to secure the return of the bodies were undermined by Operation Grapes of Wrath.

Family members of the MIAs met yesterday with OC Manpower Maj.-Gen. Gideon Shefer. They expressed disappointment after the meeting, saying that they had not received any new information, and that they had apparently been called to the meeting because of media reports.

"There was nothing specific. They told us they are working on things, but we have been hearing that for a long time," said Yona Baumel, Zacharia's father.

Feldman's sister, Anat Cohen, said their expectations had been aroused because of the haste with which they were called to the meeting.

"For the past 14 years, there have been reports. Some say there are bodies and others that the boys are alive ... We have differences of opinion with the establishment, which believes that they must look for bodies, while we believe our boys are alive," she said.

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