Netanyahu says returned tank will be memorial to missing men
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Russia's proposed return of a tank captured in fighting with Syria in 1982 will be a memorial to three missing Israeli soldiers.
The tank was one of two seized by Syrian forces during a battle at Sultan Yaacoub during the Lebanon war, one of which was later passed on to Damascus ally Russia.
Soldiers Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and Zacharia Baumel are listed missing, presumed killed, since the battle although it is not yet proven that they had been in the Moscow tank, Israeli media said.
"Thirty-four years we are searching for our fighters and we know that we shall not stop until we find them and can lay them to rest in a Jewish grave in Israel," Netanyahu said at a formal ceremony in the Moscow museum where the tank is currently housed.
"During these 34 years, the Katz, Feldman and Baumel families had no grave to visit but now they will have this tank, a remnant of the battle of Sultan Yaacoub which they can visit," the Israeli prime minister said in Hebrew remarks broadcast by his country's public radio.
"They can touch it and touch the memory of their sons," he added.
Netanyahu was accompanied by members of the Israeli Armoured Corps, who will liaise with their Russian counterparts on transporting the tank home, his office said in a statement.
No date has so far been set for the move.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin warmly for this moving humanitarian gesture, first and foremost in the name of the families," Netanyahu said.
"I think that this event symbolises the emotional and deep bond between us."
The commander in chief of Russian ground forces, Colonel General Oleg Salyukov, said that Russia and Israel shared a sense of reverence for their war dead.
"I consider that today's event is a sign of the attitudes in our countries to the memory of fallen warriors," he was quoted as saying by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.
"Today's event is the result of the agreement of the leaders of our countries and we all treat it with great respect and deep understanding."
Netanyahu arrived in Moscow Monday for a two-day trip, his third since September.
His talks with Putin in recent months have largely focused on the conflict in Syria, which neighbours Israel and is technically still at war with it.
The latest visit comes as Israel and Russia mark 25 years since the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.
© 2016 AFP