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Monday, December 20, 2010

Baumol's mother seeking eyewitness testimony to her son's capture

31 years ago, Zechariah Baumel sat in the row in front of me in yeshiva. Two years later, in 1982, Baumel was sent to Lebanon by the IDF. He has not returned since. He and three of his comrades were captured by the Syrians in the largest tank battle in Israel's history, the battle of Sultan Yaqub. Last year, Baumel's father died without knowing his son's fate. Now, his mother has filed an action under the British Freedom of Information Act to gain access to a report by the British ambassador to Syria. It seems that the ambassador was present when Baumol was paraded through the streets of Damascus after his capture. Mrs. Baumel wants to see the report he filed regarding what he saw.
IDF soldiers Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Tzvi Feldman – all in their 20s at the time -- went missing near the Lebanese village of Sultan Yaqub in the final battle of the first Lebanon War on June 11, 1982.

All three are still listed as missing in action (MIA). However, it subsequently came to light that the British Ambassador to Syria at the time, Ivor Lucas, may have witnessed their capture by Syrian soldiers. Lucas, who filed a report to London on the day of the battle, may also have seen the Syrian troops parade their Israeli captives and their tank through the streets of Damascus.

Baumel’s mother has tried for two years to obtain the Lucas report, only to be stymied by the UK’s Foreign Office, which responded, “We are conscious that the release of sensitive information would cause harm to our relationship with Syria.”

The soldier’s father passed away last year, still not knowing the fate of his son.

This past August, attorney Daniel Berke submitted an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act for the document – possibly the only written record that could shed light on the fate of the three missing IDF soldiers.

“It is in the public interest to [show] that under its obligations under UK and international law, no passage of time will stop Britain aiding an ally, in this case Israel, to gain fair treatment for its soldiers and to counter terrorism, “ Berke told the London Jewish Chronicle last week. “It is our view that the suggestion [that] this 30-year-old document will cause some harm to Syrian-British relations is really quite nonsense.”

Miriam Baumel has released a statement, saying, “I just want the public to know this is a humanitarian matter. We keep getting information that these boys and my son were seen in Damascus and that there were witnesses, and anyone who saw something or who could help must help.

“I feel the possibilities are great that he is still alive, but certainly the families of those who were seen in Damascus are entitled to closure,” she said.

“I am calling on the British government to act in a humanitarian manner and let the families know by releasing this document, for us to go further in finding our children. If you have children, if one of your children would be lost, how would you feel?”

Although Lucas has refused to comment on the matter, Reverend Bob Caroll founder of MIA UK, said he has met with the former ambassador. The Christian minister added that he is sure Lucas witnessed the incident and knows the fate of the soldiers.

A spokesperson for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) declined to comment on the appeal,and released the following statement: “We stand ready to help the families involved as best we can. But the FCO continues to believe that the decision not to release the information best serves the public interest. We take our obligations under the Freedom of Information Act extremely seriously.”
Apparently, not seriously enough. It's a pity Julian Assange's Wikileaks only went back ten years and only stole American documents. This is a document that ought to be exposed.

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At 8:36 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Even with a known living soldier, Gilad Shalit in the hands of Hamas no one moves a finger not even the heavily decorated Ehud Barak who'll rather beat up Jews in Yesha than eliminate Shalit's captours and their replacements and their replacemeements as well till they beg Israel to take Shalit back.


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