Syrian Group Claims to Be Holding MIA

A Syrian organization devoted to "liberating the Golan Heights from Israel" claimed yesterday that it could facilitate the release of an "Israeli soldier missing in action."

In exchange, it demanded the release of Druze prisoners held by Israel, according to the Ynet Internet site.

The MIA in question, if there is one, is most likely Guy Hever, who has been missing since August 17, 1997. "Israel can't buy him from us with dollars; you know perfectly well what to do retrieve him," the statement said.

The credibility of the statement, issued by the Resistance Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights, is unclear. The organization is based in Syria and operates under the patronage of the Syrian government.

Israeli security sources said that they had no other information on the statement and that its credibility "needs to be examined very thoroughly."

Leading members of the Druze community in the Golan Heights voiced skepticism about the statement, saying they did not believe that the organization was in fact holding Hever.

Rather, they suggested, the statement was aimed at drawing attention to today's planned demonstration on the Golan Heights, which will commemorate the first Druze mass demonstration against Israel's annexation of the Heights a quarter of a century