Monday, June 30, 2008
Hizbullah: Ron Arad Probably Dead
Hana Levi Julian
The Hizbullah terrorist organization has reported to the United Nations that captive Israeli Air Force navigator Ron Arad is dead. Arad has been missing in action since 1986, when his F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber was shot down over Lebanon by Amal terrorists.
The information is reportedly revealed in a document to be passed on to Israel from Hizbullah by United Nations-appointed German negotiator Gerhard Konrad as part of the prisoner exchange agreement approved Sunday.However, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would not confirm that Arad was indeed dead. Speaking to Israel National News, Mark Regev said, "The report has not yet been received. We have to take a look at it first -- and then we'll see."
During previous negotiations with the terrorist group, carried out from 2003-2005, Hizbullah said it had failed to locate or verify the status of the Israeli captive airman.
Lebanese Druze terrorist Samir Kuntar, scheduled to be released as part of the current prisoner exchange, was being reserved by Israel for a prisoner swap with Ron Arad. But although Kuntar's freedom has been included as part of the deal approved by Israel's Cabinet on Sunday, the deal will not be signed until Israel receives the terrorist organization's information on Ron Arad.
When Arad was shot down in southern Lebanon, the pilot and aircraft commander were rescued in a daring helicopter operation by the IDF. However, Arad was captured by the Shi'ite militia before he could be rescued.
His wife, Tami, received one handwritten letter within the first year, and another, also written early in his captivity, that was handed over as part of a separate prisoner swap negotiation this past year.
In addition, this past year Lebanese media released a single, brief video clip of Ron Arad, bearded and clearly under stress, identifying himself to the camera. Experts said it was not possible to know exactly when the clip had been filmed, but that it had probably been shot within two years of Arad's capture.
The Hizbullah document reportedly details the efforts by the organization to ascertain Arad's status after it turned him over to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard headquarters in Ba'albek in 1989.
The report will also explain why the terrorists cannot provide concrete proof of Arad's death or the location of his grave.
The full document is to be passed on to Israel after Israeli government envoy Ofer Dekel signs the proposed agreement. The German negotiator Konrad will then convey the document to Beirut, where it will be signed by representatives of Hizbullah.
In exchange, Israel will also provide a report informing Hizbullah of the fate of several Iranian nationals who went missing during the first Lebanon War.
According to Israel, the Iranians, which included a number of diplomats and journalists, was captured at a Christian Lebanese Phalange militia roadblock. The Iranians were reportedly then interrogated by the Christian group, executed and then buried in a building site.