Mother of Missing IDF Soldier: No Doubt My Son Is in Syria

Israel to ask Syria for info on Guy Hever, who disappeared in the Golan Heights 12 years ago.

The mother of an Israel Defense Forces soldier missing for the past 12 years told Haaretz on Wednesday the Foreign Ministry has 'no doubt' that her son is in Syria.

"The Foreign Ministry has no doubt that Guy is in Syria", Rina Haver, mother of Guy Haver said Wednesday.

Israel has launched a quiet diplomatic campaign in an attempt to ascertain the whereabouts of Guy Hever, who disappeared from the Golan Heights.

While it has not been proven if the soldier is in Syria, the move represents a significant change in Israel's official policy in the case.

The goal of the campaign is to determine whether Syria can provide information on Hever's fate.

A few weeks ago, Israel passed a message along to Syria via Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in which Jerusalem communicated its desire to obtain any information that Damascus may possess on Hever.

Rina Hever also told Haaretz that she met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month. According to Hever, the premier pledged that a special point-man would be named to oversee the activity undertaken by the various defense agencies in the state in finding the missing soldier.

"We told the Prime Minister that 10 years have passed since we met with him the first time, and that he has to settle the debt", Haver told Haaretz on Wednesday.

A few weeks ago, Hever also met with Foreign Ministry director general Yossi Gal. The mother, who in the past sought the ministry's aid in finding her son yet was only accorded limited cooperation, requested that the government seriously broach the matter with the Syrians via an intermediary.

After the meeting, Gal issued directives that the case be presented as a humanitarian issue to foreign officials visiting Jerusalem and then Damascus. The ministry also prepared a background paper on Hever's disappearance to be given to any foreign diplomat visiting Syria.

A senior Israeli official said Israel had made a few approaches to Syria on the matter in the past, but this was the first time clear directives for action had been handed down. "It has been decided to deal intensively with the matter, and this is a significant change in emphasis," the official said.

Two weeks ago, Russia's deputy foreign minister for Middle Eastern affairs, Alexander Saltanov, met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Gal during a visit to Israel. The Israelis requested Russia's assistance in obtaining information on Hever's whereabouts.

Lieberman and Gal also asked that Russia appeal to the Syrians for any information which they may have on Hever as a humanitarian gesture.

Lieberman's request was delivered to Syrian President Bashar Assad during his meeting in Damascus with Lavrov. Assad did not respond to the request in his conversation with Lavrov, though he did say that he would look into the matter.

Saltanov is due in Damascus in a few weeks. During his visit, he will raise the matter with his Syrian interlocutors and will also request answers. In addition, Israel has appealed to UN Security Council member states to raise the matter with Syria.

Israel has no new information on Guy Hever's fate, nor has there been any indication that he is in Syria. Nonetheless, Israel's appeal to Syria represents a significant shift in official Israeli policy.

A senior Israeli official said the request was made to Syria in light of the general feeling that "a diplomatic window of opportunity has presented itself with Syria on this matter against the backdrop of the growing ties between Damascus and Washington."

Hever, born in 1977, left his Golan Heights artillery base on Sunday, August 17, 1997, at 9:30 A.M., wearing his uniform and carrying his rifle. He has not been heard from since. For several years his disappearance was treated as a police matter; only after his family forced the issue did the Israel Defense Forces begin treating the case as that of a missing soldier.

One possible scenario is that Hever left his base after a disagreement with his commanding officer and fell or jumped off a cliff in the Golan. Another possibility, raised mainly by the family, is that the soldier crossed the border into Syria and is being held captive there.

In addition to intelligence-gathering efforts, the police have been combing the Golan Heights for traces of Hever since 2005, focusing on reservoirs and minefields. They have also dredged a segment of the Jordan River. A woman resident of the Golan said she saw Hever at Katzabiya junction in the eastern Golan Heights. Other sightings placed Hever in the Galilee city of Carmiel and in the town of Rosh Pina in the Hula Valley.