Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday revealed that his country's special forces troops, with Syrian assistance, were the ones that found the remains of an Israeli Israeli soldier who had been missing since 1982.
"Our soldiers together with Syrian partners established his resting place. We are very happy that they will be able to give him the necessary military honors at home," Putin said in a joint press press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow.
Israel announced on Wednesday that the remains of Sergeant First Class Zachary Baumel, who had been missing since the 1982 Lebanon war, have been retrieved and returned home.
Baumel went missing during the Battle of Sultan Yaacoub against the Syrian army in Lebanon's Bekaa region, in which 21 Israeli servicemen were killed and more than 30 were injured.
"Two years ago, I asked you to help us find the bodies of missing Israeli soldiers, and you responded in the affirmative. I want to thank you, my friend, for what you have done. I am grateful to you for your personal friendship, for your position. We share common values,” Netanyahu told Putin.
“When I told [Baumel’s family] about your decision and the fact that Russian soldiers performed the activities, sometimes while putting themselves at risk, their jaws dropped, and they asked me to express their deep gratitude, which is gratitude from all citizens of Israel,” he added.
“This is a repayment of a moral debt to the fallen soldiers of the IDF, a repayment of a moral debt to their families. One of the most moving moments in all my years as prime minister,” Netanyahu stated.
Israeli officials referred to Syria as a “third country” which assisted in the finding without directly naming it.
Baumel was one of three Israeli soldiers whose remains were never recovered following the military confrontation. Although they were believed to have been killed in the battle, some were also speculating that they were captured by the Syrian army and taken to Damascus. The bodies of the other two soldiers are yet to be found.
According to Israel's Channel 13, Baumel’s remains were returned along with those of at least 10 other people.
AFP reported that a commander of a Palestinian group in Syria claimed that Baumel’s remains were uncovered by armed factions at a Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus.