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JERUSALEM — Israel has recovered the body of a U.S.-born Israeli soldier missing since a 1982 tank battle against Syrian forces in a case vexing the nation ever since, the military said on Wednesday.
Zachary Baumel, who immigrated to Israel with his parents from New York in 1970, was 21 when he fought in Israel's invasion of Lebanon and was declared missing in action along with two other soldiers in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub.
"The body has now been in Israel for a few days," military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists, saying it was identified by DNA and flown in by El Al Israel Airlines.
The spokesman declined to say how or where the body of Baumel, a tank crewman and sergeant, was recovered. In 2018, Russia said its troops in Syria had been trying to locate the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in previous conflicts.
Two other Israeli tank crew members are still listed by the military as missing in action from the June 10-11, 1982 confrontation.
In 2016, in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russia returned an Israeli tank captured by Syria at Sultan Yacoub and transferred to a Russian museum.
At the time, Netanyahu said Israel "will not rest" until it can bring the remains of Baumel and the two others home for burial.
Israel hoped forensic tests might determine if Baumel was killed outright or died under other circumstances, Conricus said.
Over the years, there had been unverified reports that Baumel and the other soldiers missing at Sultan Yacoub might have survived the fighting and been captured.
Baumel's father, Yona, who died in 2009, led an international campaign to discover whether his son might still be alive.