TEL AVIV (Jun. 17)
The remains of 23 of the 39 bodies of Yom Kippur War dead returned to Israel by Egypt nearly two months ago have been positively identified up to now. In the process, the fate of three missing crewmen of the Israeli tank Z-109123 was finally determined.
The body of the tank commander, Lt, Yair Sharak, was identified yesterday. The remains of one of his crew members, Giora Maizler, was identified last week and another, Motti Shamir was identified earlier. They had been listed as missing in action since the third day of the Yom Kippur War–October 9, 1978–when their tank was crippled by Egyptian fire while on a mission near the Suez Canal. Although a photograph of the crippled tank with three bodies nearby was published in Egyptian newspapers some time ago, the Egyptians refused to provide Israeli authorities with the negative that might have made identification possible. They also refused to search the area near where the tank was found.
A fourth member of the tank crew. Eli Zakkai, survived. He was on a reconnaissance mission on foot and was captured by the Egyptian when the tank was hit. Before his capture he was in radio contact with his crew mates whose last message was to give himself up as there was no way out. When Zakkai was returned to Israel in the POW exchanger. he was unable to confirm whether his crew mates were alive or dead. The 23rd body, identified today, was that of Shimon Elsberg, 22.