Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday accepted a formal request by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to return the Israeli tank from the infamous Battle of Sultan Yacoub, which was captured by Syrian forces along with three IDF soldiers: Zacharia Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman.
30 Israeli soldiers were killed in the battle, which took place during the First Lebanon War in 1982. The three captive soldiers were paraded alive on their tank through the streets of the Syrian capital Damascus shortly after, but their fate was never determined.
The Syrians were at the time a key ally of Soviet Russia, and took possession of the captured tank, which was then transferred to a military museum in Moscow.
Putin's signing of a presidential order to return the tank to Israel appears to be one of the fruits of Jerusalem's budding alliance with Moscow. Netanyahu made the request to Putin during their meeting in the Kremlin earlier this year, when the two countries reached an important strategic understanding over military coordination in Syria.
The families of the soldiers have been updated.
The Russian and Israeli armies have already begun coordinating the imminent transfer of the tank. An IDF Armored Corps delegation is currently in Moscow and – along with Russian army personnel – is considering how to transfer the tank to Israel as soon as possible
Prime Minister Netanyahu hailed the gesture by Putin.
"I thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for acceding to my request to return to Israel the tank from the Battle of Sultan Yacoub," Netanyahu said in a statement.
"To the families of MIAs Zechariah Baumel, Zvi Feldman and Yehudah Katz, there has been nothing to remember the boys by and no grave to visit for 34 years now.
"The tank is the only evidence of the battle and now it is coming back to Israel thanks to President Putin's response to my request."