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Report: Israel to Say 3 Soldiers Killed

February 16, 2004

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Israeli military will soon declare three soldiers missing since a 1982 tank battle as killed in action, Israeli media reported Monday.

The army declined to comment on the reports, and families of the missing men, one of whom is a U.S. citizen, could not immediately be reached.

Israeli media said the military would shortly make an announcement on Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman, who disappeared in a fierce Israeli-Syrian battle at Sultan Yakub in Lebanon near the Syrian border during Israel’s large-scale invasion of Lebanon.

Their tank was paraded through the streets of Damascus, the Syrian capital, but no trace of the three soldiers was found.

Baumel held dual Israeli-U.S. citizenship. His father, Yona, said in an interview with Israel Radio on Saturday that his son is alive. Unless the army provides concrete evidence, Yona Baumel said he would not accept that his son was killed.

``It would be a release for us, do you know what hell our lives are ... until my wife and I are convinced that Zacharia is dead I won’t stop getting up in the middle of the night and thinking about where he is and what he is suffering,″ Yona Baumel said.

In an exchange last month, Israel freed 400 Palestinians and about 30 other Arabs, and the Lebanese Hezbollah released a kidnapped Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers ambushed on the Israel-Lebanon border in 2000.

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