Nasrallah: Hezbollah Assumes Missing IAF Airman Ron Arad Is Dead

Militant leader says his group received remains said to be Arad's, but DNA tests show they are not.

Hezbollah assumes that Ron Arad is dead, the organization's leader Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday, in the second part of a film on missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad. The film was aired on Lebanese television network LBC and Israel's Channel 10.

Nasrallah said in the video that his guerrilla organization had repeatedly been given bones thought to belong to the missing airman, but that DNA testing had shown they did not belong to Arad.

"There are two approaches as to Ron Arad['s fate]: He is either living or dead," he said. "One must assume that if Arad is dead, then he must have died between 1988 and 1989."

The film, in which Arad is seen in captivity for the first time, shows him sitting surrounded by bare concrete walls, smoking a cigarette and giving his interrogators his name and those of his parents.

He discussed his technical background as an airman, part of his pilot training and the planes he operated during his service in the IAF.

The film said the pictures had been taken in 1987 and were obtained "in very special and delicate circumstances." At that time, Arad was held by the Amal group, in which Mustafa Dirani was a leader.

Lebanese sources said they believed the film was broadcast to justify the abduction of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, in July of this year.

Lebanese journalist Ibrahim al-Amin, who is close to Hezbollah, said in the film that after Hezbollah's failed attempts to free Samir Kuntar and other Lebanese prisoners, "he was driven to carry out another act."

Bassam, Samir al-Kuntar's brother, said in the video: "Hezbollah and its weapons are our guarantee to bring our loved ones home. If anyone has another solution, tell us what it is."

Nasrallah surveyed the stages prior to the first stage of the POWs deal, in which the bodies of IDF soldiers Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omar Souad were transferred to Israel. The first stage was to have included all the Lebanese prisoners, but to his surprise, Israel refused to release Kuntar, he said.

The German mediators told him Israel insisted on including some mention of Arad in the deal, so his organization decided to help. "Israel didn't want the deal without Arad, but we didn't have him anymore. Then the idea came up to include Arad as justification for the second stage," Nasrallah said.

Al-Amin said Hezbollah had no knowledge of Arad's fate. "If he could reveal Ron Arad's fate, he would have," he said.

Arad's relatives watched the film in which he was seen speaking for the first time since his airplane fell in Lebanon 20 years ago.

Chen Arad, the navigator's brother, said "we think Israel is conveying the wrong values by not demanding the implementation of the second part of the deal signed with Hezbollah two years ago. None of Israel's leaders is bothering to mention Ron as an issue which needs to be solved. We think it is not worthy to do that to a soldier who was sent by the state," he said.

"The first second we saw the film we knew it was him, undoubtedly. It was a complete surprise because nobody ever told us such a cassette exists. We believe the defense establishment was surprised as well. Clearly not everything had been done [to bring him back]," he said.