Russia returns captured IDF tank

June 8, 2016  

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara took part in an official ceremony for the return of a tank that had been captured by Syria during the 1982 war in Lebanon.

The commander of Russia’s ground forces, Colonel General Oleg Salyukov, participated in the ceremony, which took place in the Patriot armor museum near Moscow.

Prime Minister Netanyahu told attendees: “This is an emotional moment for me and for all Israel’s citizens. We are marking 25 years since the renewed diplomatic relations between us and our deep connection also appears in our a shared history full of struggles and untold suffering.

“We appreciate the role played by the Russian people and the Red Army in defeating the Nazis. We recognize the great tank battles that played a decisive role in the victory. Every year veterans march in Israel. I see the symbols on their uniforms and we salute them, just as we salute the fighters who took part in these battles.”

He added that “All those who fought in battle know the importance of the principle we are implementing – we don’t leave anyone behind. For the past 34 years we have been looking for our fighters and we will not cease until we can bring them to graves in the State of Israel. For these 34 years, the Katz, Feldman and Baumel families have not had a grave to visit. But now they will have this tank. A remnant from the battle of Sultan Ya’akov that they can visit and touch, and which will let them feel their common memory.

“We will keep searching for them, just as we are doing for Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul. I want to take this opportunity to thank President Putin from the bottom of my heart for the meaningful humanitarian gesture, and most of all to them him on behalf of the families. I think that this event symbolizes the deep emotional connection between us, a connection between nations that are, at times, forced to fight for their freedom.”

Colonel General Salyukov also spoke, saying: “For all these days, the State of Israel and Russia have striven to build a positive relationship. For me this moment is particularly important, both as the commander of the ground forces and as a graduate of armor school. Tanks have determined the results of battles on more than one occasion in history, so we understand your desire to recover it. The tank’s return is proof of the good relations between our countries.”

He then handed Netanyahu the tank’s documents, including a piece of paper that was attached to the box of rifle bullets.

Netanyahu first broached the subject during his April meeting with Putin in the Kremlin, after IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott asked for the tank to be returned. About a week ago, Israel received a message that Putin agreed to the request and would return the tank to Israel.

Until now, it has been sitting in an armor museum.

Netanyahu personally updated the families of the missing soldiers Tsvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and Zacharia Baumel about the achievement.

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