IDF tanks in Lebanon during the 1982 war. (AP) (AP)
First Lebanon War

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for agreeing to return a tank from a battle in the 1982 First Lebanon war when Israel fought against Syria and Lebanon, during which three IDF soldiers were captured. After the war, Syria delivered the tank to the Russian army and it later ended up in a Moscow museum.

Putin has signed an order to return the tank to Israel.

Netanyahu raised the issue during his meeting with Putin in the Kremlin last month, following a request from IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, and asked him to return the tank to Israel as it is the only evidence for the families of the three IDF MIA’s.

In a statement issued Sunday, Netanyahu thanked Putin for acceding to his request.

Netanyahu updated the families of MIAs Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and Zechariah Baumel.

The three soldiers from the Sultan Yacoub battle where the tank was deployed are still MIA, while 30 other IDF soldiers were killed in the two-day battle against Syrian forces in the Bekaa Valley that occurred on June 11.

Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and Zechariah Baume

IDF MIAs (from L) Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and Zechariah Baumel. (GPO)

Several eyewitnesses testified to seeing the three soldiers paraded alive through the streets of Damascus on top of the tank. There have been intermediate reports over the years of at least one soldier being alive.

Netanyahu spoke of the significance of this gesture, saying “there has been nothing to remember the boys by and no grave to visit for 34 years now. The tank is the only evidence of the battle and now it is coming back to Israel thanks to President Putin’s response to my request.”

An IDF Armored Corps delegation is currently in Moscow and – along with Russian army personnel – is considering how to transfer the tank to Israel.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel