By Baruch Yedid
Less than 24 hours have passed since the IDF made its dramatic announcement that it had brought Sergeant 1st Class Zachary Baumel, a fallen soldier, back home to Israel for a proper burial 37 years after he was declared an MIA, but the various Arab factions have already commenced in blaming each other of collaborating with Israel in the operation.
Fatah is blaming Hamas for turning over Baumel’s remains “for free,” part of a deal involving Turkey and Qatar. These rumors are circulating on social media and not by officials news sources, and are part of a propaganda campaign Fatah is waging against its bitter rival Hamas, and as part of an ongoing exchange of accusations between the two sides on who is collaborating with Israel.
The Fatah have named Muhammad Zu’amut, a senior Hamas official and previously an aide to Hamas head Khaled Mashal, as the figure who was in charge of locating the body and transferring it to Turkish intelligence officers. Turkey turned Baumel over to the Mossad, Fatah claims.
Fatah further claims that Qatar was involved in the deal, which is part of the ceasefire talks underway between Israel and Hamas. Israel has allegedly agreed to cease its hunt for senior Hamas terrorist Saleh Aruri in return for Baumel’s remains. Finally, Hamas had enabled this exchange so that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could gain political points and get reelected, a move they say Hamas supports.
The Popular Front for the Liberation for Palestine (PFLP) has also been blamed for assisting Russia in locating Baumel’s temporary grave in Syria. Russia was instrumental in locating and returning Baumel to Israel, and maintains a line of communication with the PFLP.
However, Anwar Raja, a senior PFLP commander, has denied any involvement. He told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al Mayadeen News that Baumel was found in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, but that “armed terrorist groups” transferred the body to the Turks.
The Yarmouk refugee camp is the largest in Syria, situated in the environs of the capital Damascus. Once the home of some 150,000 residents, a bloody battle over control of the camp during Syria’s civil war left only 18,000 living there. All the rest fled to Lebanon or died in the battles. The Islamic State (ISIS) controlled the area for a few years, but the camp is now under full Syrian control.
Raja did not provide an explanation on how an exhumation operation was able to take place while the Yarmouk camp was under full Syrian control, or how the body could have been transferred through Syria to Turkey.
Other publications in Arabic said the transfer of Baumel’s body to Israel was a Russian gesture to the Jewish state.
Israel said that Baumel was brought home after a complex intelligence investigation and a daring military operation.