Sat Jun 18, 2016 8:19PM
An ex-Israeli ERA-armored M48 tank, captured during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub (Wikipedia)
An ex-Israeli ERA-armored M48 tank, captured during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub (Wikipedia)

An Israeli army tank captured by the Syrian army in 1982 and recently returned to Israel by Russia is “fake,” Israeli experts say.

A report by Zionist media network Arutz Sheva on Saturday quoted an Israeli general as saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fell “for a fake” during his visit to Russia last week along with the rest of “the nation.”

The M48A3 Magach-3 tank was one of the eight captured by Syria during a battle known as Battle of Sultan Yacoub near Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where the Israelis also lost some 30 soldiers.

The tank was sent to Russia to remain in exhibit in the Kubinka Tank Museum in Moscow but recently “Russian President [Vladimir] Putin decided to give one of these tanks back to Israel,” according to the leader of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), Walid Jumblatt, who referred to the move as an “insult” to Syria.

Now, Israelis are claiming that the tank is not the one with the three Israeli soldiers they thought were in it.

Bibi’s Facebook page described the tank as “the only evidence we have of our boys who went missing in that battle: Zacharia Baumel, Tzvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz," but Lieutenant Colonel Michael Mas told Yedioth Ahronoth that it was “fake.”

“It is very sad that the Prime Minister and the nation are falling for a fake," Mas said. "This tank isn't the missing soldiers' tank. What has been returned to us is a complete tank, and the missing soldiers' tank is different. While this is one of the tanks which were captured from the 399 division during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub, there are no signs that anyone was ever injured in this tank."

"When Netanyahu said that there will be some closure for families who have no grave (to visit), he made two mistakes. First, this isn't the missing soldiers' tank, and second, they are missing, not killed in action," he added.

Another Israeli military official said the tank sent by Russia carried a different serial number from that specific tank with the number 817581.

The Israeli premier’s office backed down to put an end to the drama.

"We said that this is a tank from the Battle of Sultan Yacoub and is evidence of the fighting. This is what the Prime Minister told the families," it said. "No one ever said that this was the tank of the three (missing soldiers)."