Olmert's Bureau Looking Into Report on Guy Hever

Druze sources attribute report's timing to 25th anniversary of Israel's annexation of Golan Heights.

Israel is looking into the claim of a Syrian guerrilla organization implying that a missing Israeli soldier is being held in Syria.

The report is believed to be about Guy Hever, who went missing in 1997. "The information is being checked to verify its reliability and who is behind it. The examination has not been completed," a statement from the Prime Minister's Bureau said.

Nine Syrian citizens, Druze villagers from the Golan, who have been charged with security offenses, are held in Israeli prisons as possible "bargaining chips" in a future prisoner exchange deal with Syria.

The announcement released on Tuesday did not refer to Guy Hever by name.

The organization that released it, the Resistance Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights, did not say it was holding the Israeli soldier.

The organization's announcement said: "Zionists, do not think your millions of dollars will bring you back the soldier missing in the Golan. You know very well how he will return."

Druze sources in the Golan told Haaretz yesterday that the announcement probably was related to the 25th anniversary of Israel's annexation of the Golan.

The anniversary was marked yesterday by protest demonstrations on both sides of the Israeli-Syrian border.

The Druze Internet site Banyas (operating in the Golan), followed by Ynet, reported on Tuesday that the Resistance Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights was holding an Israeli soldier.

No Syrian official or private news site carried the report on Tuesday night, and yesterday it appeared only as a quote from the Israeli media.

Hever's family said it proved their claim in recent years that their son had been kidnapped to Syria.

Banyas Web site and newspaper editor Dr. Samih Safadi, said, "We received the report on Guy Hever at noon Tuesday. I realized there was a big story here and immediately put it online."

He said activists of the Syrian group had been interviewed in his newspaper on previous occasions, and said Hezbollah was their model.

The Banyas newspaper and Internet site are the first Druze media operated regularly by Druze in the north of the Golan since the region was conquered in 1967. The newspaper was founded two years ago and 10,000 copies of it are distributed in the Golan, Carmel, Galilee, Haifa and Shfaram.