Why Putin sent a lost Israeli tank home
The American M48 Patton tank upgraded by the IDF was captured by Syrian forces with its three-man crew in the Sultan Yaakov battle in the Lebanon war of 1982. The three-man crew was lost. To this day the fate of Zacharia Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman has never been determined.
After the battle President Hafez Assad, father of the incumbent Bashar Assad, who established in the the1960s the first Russian-Syrian alliance the, agreed to let the Russian have the tank. They were keen to study the reactive armor the IDF had installed. Special teams of the Engineering Corps flew the tank from Sultan Yaakov battle field to Moscow.
Thirty four years later, the “Magach” (battering ram) tank arrived home after spending years in the Kubinka Tank Museum near Moscow, as a result of a gesture by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Israel PM Binyamin Netanyahu.
It is safe to assume that Putin consulted Assad before making this gesture and both had their own reasons for making it. It is also possible that the Syrian ruler may also decide to disclose what happened to the three missing Israeli soldiers and perhaps even return their remains.
DEBKAfile sources in Moscow and Jerusalem probed to find out the motives of Putin and Assad, allies of Iran and Hizballah, in making this gesture. They find an answer in Putin’s broader designs for the Middle East alongside his military actions in Syria. In every recent conference between high ranking Russian and Israeli officials, the key issue of South Syria has come up in order to bridge their different objectives.
Moscow holds that all of South Syria must come under the Assad regime rule, as the key to its stability. Israel, along with the US, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, anxious to keep South Syria
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