I rise in strong support of H.R. 1175, introduced by Congressman Lantos.
Mr. Chairman, for seventeen years, the fate of three missing Israeli soldiers has remained a mystery that has
haunted their families and their nations.
On June 11, 1982, Zachary Baumel, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman were captured in
northeastern Lebanon, in a battle with Syrian and Palestinian forces. The PLO had custody of the three soldiers for
the first year and half of their captivity. When a pro-Syrian faction split with the PLO, they took the three Israeli
soldiers with them and their whereabouts are unknown.
The Syrian government currently claims they have no knowledge concerning the fate of the soldiers. However,
western journalists and Syrian radio reported that the three soldiers were paraded through Damascus several hours
after they were captured. Three weeks later, on July 4, 1982, the Syrian secret police delivered four bodies for
burial to the Jewish cemetery in Damascus claiming they were the bodies of the Israeli soldiers. The Syrians also
provided name tags, which Israeli intelligence sources reported were supplied by the PLO's Fatah faction. Fifteen
months later, the Red Cross exhumed the four graves, finding only one Israeli body.
The most recent evidence which indicates the Zachary Baumel may still be alive came from PLO leader Yasser
Arafat. In 1993, Arafat delivered half of Zachary Baumel's dog tags to Israeli officials. Chairman Arafat promised
that more information was forthcoming, but it was never received. As recently as 1997, information has been
obtained that Baumel, along with two other men, may still be in custody in Lebanon.
With the resumption of the Middle East peace process, the State Department should urge the Syrian and Lebanese
governments, along with Chairman Arafat, to secure information that will resolve the fate of the missing soldiers.
The State Department should communicate to these governments that their willingness to assist efforts in the
search for the missing soldiers will be considered among other factors in the provision of future economic and
The plight of the missing soldiers was brought to my attention by Miriam and Yona Baumel, who have
asked me to help find more information concerning their son and the other missing soldiers and to secure their
return. They believe, as I do, that the soldiers may still be alive. One cannot imagine the pain of uncertainty and
fear they have felt for the past 17 years waiting to hear about the fate of their son.
I urge my colleagues to support House Resolution 1175. The three missing Israeli soldiers are the longest
held hostages in the Middle East, and it is time that they are released to return to their families.