Sultan Yaqub Letter: "I Saw a Body on the Tank's Catwalk"
Several days ago, the British Foreign Office gave the lawyer representing Mrs. Mriam Baumel, mother of IDF soldier Zachary Baumel, a document that sheds new light on the mystery of the three soldiers still missing in action from the June 11,1982 battle of Sultan Yaqub, the last battle of the 1st Lebanon War.
Zachary Baumel, a US citizen, Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz are the three IDF soldiers still listed as missing in action from that date. Since then, their parents have searched ceaselessly for any information about their sons' fate. Zachary's father died without knowing what happened to his son.
The existence of the letter, dated May 2, 1989, became known when Reverend Bob Caroll, head of United Kingdom MIA publicized its existence. The British Foreign Office refused to reveal its contents to the distraught parents, claiming it might harm the United Kingdom's relations with Syria, until Miriam Baumel recently sued for its release.
The letter, brought in full below, was published in the Hebrew Makor Rishon on Friday. INN could not ascertain if Mrs. Baumel was told to whom the expurged name refers.
From Lt. Colonel Andrian H. Peck OBE
2ndMay 1989 (Stamped Received 04 May 1989)
Near East and North Africa Department
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SWA 2AH
Dear Mr. Haywood,
Thank you for your letter of 27thApril 1989 concerning the enquiries of Mrs. Miriam Baumel.
In fact, I did not see the Israeli tank paraded round the main square of Damascus on 11thJune. However, I did see it on the main Damascus/Beirut road in the vicinity of the Lebanese border, whilst it was en route to Damascus.
What I saw was reported to the Minister of Defense at that time. I have also been approached by the Israelis more than once, through MoD (Israeli Intelligence, ed.) , for further information. I have spoken to the MoD and I understand that Lt. Col ._____will be making contact with you shortly.
Furthermore, Mrs. Baumel has been in touch recently with Ivor Lucas. I have agreed, on purely humanitarian grounds, with Ivor Lucas, who knows the story now, to meet Mrs. Baumel unofficially when next she visits London! I think Ivor Lucas will also probably be in touch with you.
Sadly I fear I have little or nothing to add to what was reported then. In essence, I saw the tank being driven to Damascus, the vehicle was covered with what I thought were Palestinians. I could not tell if there were any Israeli prisoners in the circumstances. There was, however, one body lying on the catwalk of the tank. It might well be that the driver was a prisoner but one could not be certain.
I hope this and the discussions with ______ and Ivor Lucas will be helpful and put you in touch with the situation.
Adrian Peck was the military attaché in Damascus during the1st Lebanon War. On the day of the battle, he went out with his driver in the direction of the Lebanese-Syrian border and saw the battle from afar. Ivor Lucas was the UK ambassador to Syria at the time.
Mrs. Baumel is in possession of a black-and-white photograph of a tank with a uniform-clad body lying on it that was said to have reached Damascus from the battle. The letter seems to corroborate the authenticity of the photograph.
The letter's release, in part as a result of the publicity that Reverend Caroll succeeded in arousing as well as Mrs. Baumel's persistence, may lead to a reevaluation of the IDF MIA investigations thus far, with efforts concentrated on obtaining the report alluded to from the British Foreign Office.