Russia has said it will return a tank to Israel that has been held by the Assad government in Syria for more than thirty years, according to an article published today in The Times of Israel, an English language news website in Jerusalem.
The tank was seized by Syrian forces in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley during the 1982 Lebanon War. Syrian soldiers also reportedly took three Israeli soldiers captive at the time, although it’s unclear what fate the Israeli soldiers eventually suffered, since little news has been heard of them since.
Syrian forces also killed an additional 30 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fighters during the bloody battle.
An Associated Press report from the time describes how the tank was paraded in Damascus by the Syrian Army. Witnesses told the news agency that the Syrian soldiers had captive Israeli hostages who were understood to have been the tank’s crew.
The 1982 Lebanon War commenced after Israel invaded Lebanon in order to fight the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), a guerilla fighter group led by Yasser Arafat.
The PLO had been attacking Israel from Lebanon after it was violently expelled from Jordan years before. Most of the PLO moved to Tunisia after their ranks were damaged by the Israelis in Lebanon during the 1982 war.
The war is perhaps best known for the massacres that occurred at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, where Christian Phalangist militias murdered between 800-3,500 people, most of whom were Palestinians.
Israel was heavily critized by the international community for having permitted the Christian Lebanese fighters to massacre the Palestinian civilians.
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