Daily Israel Report

Mother of Missing IDF Soldier Zachary Baumel Sues UK Gov't

A Manchester legal firm acting for the mother of Zachary Baumel is suing the British government in hopes of finding the missing IDF soldier.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 12/19/2010, 10:32 AM / Last Update: 12/19/2010, 10:53 AM

Flash 90

A legal firm in Manchester, England acting on behalf of Miriam Baumel, is suing the British government for access to documents she hopes will help her discover the fate of her son and two others.

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.”