Hezbollah Gave Israel Letter From MIA Ron Arad as Part of Swap Deal

Ron Arad's wife receives photograph and letter he wrote her, transferred by Hezbollah to Israel last week.

Hezbollah transferred to Israel a letter written by missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad as part of the exchange carried out last week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed on Monday.

The Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported earlier Monday that Arad's wife, Tami, was given the letter by the prime minister's coordinator for missing soldiers, Ofer Dekel, when she met with him last Thursday at the Israel Defense Forces compound in Tel Aviv.

Hezbollah handed the letter over to Israel as part of the recent prisoner exchange deal. The group also gave Israel a previously unreleased photograph of the missing navigator and excerpts from Hezbollah's report on his captivity.

Speaking from Paris, where he was meeting with French leaders on Monday, Olmert said the letter was "very moving, though I haven't read it because it is personal."

The prime minister refused to say whether the letter sheds any new light on what became of Arad after his capture. He also would not discuss his expectations for a future prisoner swap deal with Hezbollah.

Tami Arad, who was visibly emotional when she received the letter, confirmed that the handwriting belonged to her husband and that in the note he referred to nicknames they used for one another.

In the first swap since the Second Lebanon War, Israel last week released an ailing Hezbollah fighter as well as the bodies of two others, in exchange for the remains of an Israeli civilian who drowned two years ago off the coast of the north and whose body was swept into Lebanese waters.

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar had claimed immediately after the deal was carried out that Hezbollah gave Israel documents written in Arad's handwriting as part of the exchange, but the report was never confirmed.

According to a separate deal set in 2004, Hebzollah had promised to supply reliable information about Arad's fate in exchange for Israel's release of Samir Kuntar, who murdered the Haran family in Nahariya in 1979.

Ron Arad was abducted on October 16, 1986 by members of the Shi'ite militant group Amal after they shot his plane down over the Lebanese city Sidon.