Imad Mughniyeh, the high-ranking military leader of Hezbollah who was assassinated in Syria eight years ago, was reported to have made major efforts to locate Ron Arad, the Israeli Air Force navigator. Arad was captured after his plane went down over Lebanon in 1986. He was declared missing in action. His current whereabouts are unknown, although there have been reports that he is presumed dead.
As part of an article about Mughniyeh and his killing, which foreign media sources have attributed to Israel, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which is identified with Shi'ite terror group, reported on Tuesday that the slain Hezbollah figure had been very much involved in every round of indirect talks between the group and Israel for soldiers deemed missing in action, or for their bodies.
The talks were aimed at trading the soldiers for Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel.
Mughniyeh was reportedly involved in operations in 2000 and 2006 in the Mt. Dov region where the borders of Lebanon, Syria and the Israeli Golan Heights meet and where five Israel Defense Force soldiers were abducted.
Mughniyeh was also involved in negotiations over the soldiers' return, the report stated. Mughniyeh was particularly interested in the case of Ron Arad and even set up a special team to search for any information that could shed light on his fate, said the report, which added that this was out of the awareness that Israel would pay a major price for him.
The team reportedly managed to locate Arad's parachute and personal weapon as well as items of his clothing, but the items did not lead the team to locate Arad or his body. Hezbollah reportedly tried to conduct negotiations regarding the items, although it was not stated if Israel paid a price of any kind.
It should be noted that Hezbollah's interest in finding Arad is well-known and an issue on which the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has spoken, due to the importance of the issue to Israel.
Arad was captured by the Lebanese Shi'ite Amal militia, and Israel in turn sent commandos to abduct Amal leader Mustafa Dirani from his home in southern Lebanon in 1994 in the hopes of trading him for information on Arad. Dirani told his Israeli interrogators that he had turned Arad over to Iran but later retracted the claim saying that is was extracted by force and was not true.