The tank returned to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Moscow last week, which was captured by the Syrians in the 1982 Lebanon War, was not the tank people thought it was, according to experts who examined it.
The tank was understood to have been the one from which three Israeli soldiers went missing in action – Zacharia Baumel, Tzvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz.
The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement suggesting it might provide “some closure” for the families: “For 34 years the Katz, Feldman, and Baumel families haven’t had a grave to visit. But now they will have this tank – a remnant of the fighting at Sultan Yaakov which the families can visit in Israel, touch, and remember their children by.”
But it turned out not to be the tank they thought it was.
Tank expert Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Mas told Yedioth Ahronoth:
“It is very sad that the prime minister and the nation are falling for a fake,” Mas said. “This tank isn’t the missing soldiers’ tank. What has been returned to us is a complete tank, and the missing soldiers’ tank is different. While this is one of the tanks which were captured from the 399 division during the Battle of Sultan Yaakov, there are no signs that anyone was ever injured in this tank.”
Another expert, Lt. Col. (ret.) Danny Kriaf added “the serial number for the tank which was returned was 817581, and the missing soldiers’ tank’s serial number was different… It’s clear that the Russians didn’t care which tank they sent.”
The Prime Minister’s Office subsequently put out a clarification, that it was never claimed that the tank received from the Russians was the missing soldiers’ tank.
“We said that this is a tank from the Battle of Sultan Yaakov and is evidence of the fighting. This is what the prime minister told the families. No one ever said that this was the tank of the three [missing soldiers].”