News Digest — 4/4/19

After 37 Years – Body Of IDF MIA Brought Back To Israel

Thirty-seven years after the Battle of Sultan Yaqub during the First Lebanon War, the body of one of the MIA IDF soldiers has been returned to Israel.

A special team of the IDF headed by the leader of the manpower division, Major General Moti Almoz, informed the Baumel family Wednesday (3rd) that the body of their loved one, Sergeant Zachary Baumel, who had been missing since the battle of Sultan Yaqub in the summer of 1982, was found, brought to Israel and identified.

Sergeant Baumel was clearly identified at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, as well as by Chief Military Rabbi, Brigadier General Eyal Krim.

The IDF Spokesperson stated that “the  IDF is committed to continuing efforts to locate [other MIAs from the Battle of Sultan Yaqub] Sergeant Major Yehuda Katz, Sergeant Tzvika Feldman and all the missing soldiers whose burial place is unknown.  The Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi, IDF commanders and soldiers, embrace all the families, including Baumel, Feldman and Katz in these complex moments.”

Baumel will be buried in Jerusalem on Thursday (4th).

Zachary Baumel immigrated with his parents to Israel from Brooklyn, New York in 1970, later joining a hesder military unit combining combat service with yeshiva study.

He had nearly completed his service when he was called up to serve in the Lebanon War on June 11, 1982, he was sent into battle with his comrades near the Lebanese village of Sultan Yaqub.

At least 20 Israelis were killed in the battle and 30 wounded, with 3 MIAs, two who are still missing.



‘One Of My Most Exciting Moments As Prime Minister’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the return of the body of Israeli MIA Zachary Baumel.

Several days ago, the remains of IDF soldier Zachary Baumel were brought to Israel,” Netanyahu announced, explaining that the occasion was one of his “most exciting moments as prime minister.”

He said that, over the course of 37 years since the 1982 Lebanon War during which Baumel has been missing, “Israel has invested huge resources in solving the riddle of his fate, along with those of his comrades Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz.”

“The bones brought to Israel are him – with certainty.  Next to them, his uniform and tzitzit were also found.”

“Soon Zachary will be laid to rest in Israel.  I remembered well Yonah, his father. He traveled across the entire world to find any trace of information about his missing son.  Many times he told me in tears that he had one prayer: to find his son before he passed away. He passed away about a decade ago.”

“A short while ago, we notified Zachary’s mother, brother and sister, that we had brought him home.  They will accompany him to his final resting place.”

“In his last words to his parents, written on a postcard before the Battle of Sultan Yaqub, Zachary wrote, ‘Don’t worry, everything is okay, but it looks like I won’t be home for a while.’  It took Israel 37 years to bring him home.”

Netanyahu thanked the entire Israeli intelligence community for its efforts to return Baumel.

“The bringing of a killed IDF soldier for burial in Israel is always a wound in the heart of the family and the nation.  But in this case, the pain of mourning also comes with the removal of doubt. Today we remove the uncertainty as to the fate of Zachary.  Today we come full circle.”

“May the memory of Zachary Baumel be blessed forever.”



Hamas, Other Groups Said To Order Halt To Arson Balloon Launches

The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups in the Gaza Strip have instructed their members to stop launching flaming and explosive-laden balloons into Israel and to halt nighttime protests in the border region between the Jewish state and the coastal enclave, according to a Palestinian report Wednesday (3rd).

The report in the Al-Quds daily, citing “well-placed” sources, said smaller Palestinian factions in the enclave would also halt launching balloons into Israel, amid intensive efforts to reach a truce with Israel.

Palestinians in Gaza have launched thousands of balloons and kites carrying incendiary devices or explosives at Israel since April 2018, burning thousands of acres of farmland in the southern part of the Jewish state.

Gazans recently restarted the launches, after a several-month hiatus in the fall and winter, and began holding night protests as tensions on the Gaza border have increased.

According to the report, the Gazan groups told their members to stop employing “rough tools” along the border, using a phrase that refers to incendiary and explosive-laden balloons and nighttime protests.

There appeared to be a breakthrough in the UN, Egypt, and Qatar-brokered ceasefire efforts over the weekend, when Palestinians in Gaza maintained relative calm along the border during large protests on Saturday (3/30).



Artificial Airport Islands In Israel’s Future As Dutch Firm Wins Bid

Dutch engineering and project management consulting firm Royal HaskoningDHV has won a tender by the Israeli Ministry of Transportation to examine the planning and economic viability of building an artificial island off the coast of Israel to house an airport, a transportation ministry spokesman told Calcalist Tuesday (2nd).

Royal HaskoningDHV is working on the project with Israel-based infrastructure planning company Aviv AMCG, a subsidiary of Matrix IT Ltd.  The two companies had already started the assessment approximately two weeks ago, Margalit Mosse Friedberg, Aviv AMCG’s director of the project’s local task force said in a Tuesday (2nd) interview with Calcalist.

In 2002, the Israeli government approved a plan to construct two artificial islands off the country’s shores, specifying one for an international airport and one for housing.

During a cabinet meeting in January 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resurfaced the idea to construct artificial islands in Israel’s territorial waters as a solution for Israel’s finite territory.  In a cabinet meeting in July, Netanyahu instructed a team of ministers to advance the plan in order to replace Tel Aviv’s domestic Sde Dov airport.



Skeleton Of Mother Cradling Baby Discovered At Holocaust Mass Grave-Site In Belarus

Excavations at the site of a Holocaust mass grave in Belarus have discovered the remains of more than 1,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis – including that of a female skeleton cradling her baby.

A BBC reporter observing the excavations on Tuesday (2nd) in the city of Brest relayed the harrowing scenes at the site, as skeletons, many belonging to children, were unearthed by military examiners.

The military usually searches for the bones of Soviet soldiers.  But at the site in Brest, in the western part of the country, “they have removed the small skulls of teenagers instead, and a female skeleton with the remains of a baby, as if she’d been cradlong it,” the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reported.

The BBC report noted that almost half the 50,000-strong population of Brest on the eve of World War II were Jews.

Up to 5,000 men were executed shortly after the German invasion in June 1941. Those who remained were later crammed into a ghetto, across several blocks of the city center surrounded by barbed wire.

In October 1942, the Nazis issued orders to wipe the Jewish population out.  “They were herded onto freight trains and driven over 62 miles to a forest . At Al Bronnaya Gora, thousands were led to the edge of a vast pit and shot,” the report said.

The Brest mass grave contains the remains of some of those who managed to hide from the Nazis at first, only to be rooted out.

The remains were discovered at the end of February by construction workers on the site.  Located on the Polish border, Brest was a part of Poland before the war.