According to two new reports, by the Mossad and by the army’s Intelligence Branch, navigator Ron Arad, who was taken prisoner after he ejected from his aircraft over Lebanon in 1986, died early in his captivity, earlier than previous assessments had stated, Channel 2 reported last night.
- Missing Israeli airman Ron Arad died 'under torture' in 1988, witness tells Lebanese court
- Report: Slain Hezbollah commander made major efforts to find Israeli pilot Ron Arad
Officially Arad is still listed as missing in action.
Both reports, which include information obtained during the past two years, have been presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Arad family received regular updates while the reports were being prepared, according to the news report.
Previous intelligence assessments regarding Arad’s death were based on a report by a secret committee established in 2005, headed by then MI chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash. That assessment, published in 2009, said Arad had died of an illness in 1995 while being held by the Iranians, after he had been imprisoned for a lengthy period in Iran.
Arad ejected as his plane fell over Lebanon in October 1986 and he was taken prisoner by the Shi’ite Muslim group Amal. Subsequently, Mustafa Dirani left the organization and took Arad with him.
In 1987, three letters in Arad’s handwriting and two photos of him were received, proving Arad was alive at that time.
Dirani, who was kidnapped and brought to Israel by the elite Israel Defense Forces unit Sayeret Matkal in 1994, told his interrogators that in May 1988, as an IDF paratroopers force invaded the village of Maidoun, near where Arad was being held, either the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or other Lebanese who worked for Iran exploited the tumult and snatched Arad.
That’s the last date for which Israel has confirmed intelligence information about Arad’s fate. Dirani, who was held by Israel for 10 years, insisted he had no idea what happened to Arad after that. Since then there have been various reports about Arad. Some claimed that he’d been taken to Iran. Others put him in Lebanon in the early 1990s. Since the mid-1990s Israeli has publicly held Iran responsible for Arad’s fate and claimed he was being held on Iranian soil.
Last February a report in a Lebanese newspaper said Mufid Kuntar, who was accused of spying for Israel, claimed during his trial in a Lebanese court that Arad died in 1988 and was apparently beaten and tortured before his death. Earlier that month, another Lebanese newspaper reported that Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyah, who was assassinated eight years ago, worked to locate Ron Arad and even set up a special team that found his parachute and weapon.