IDF Intelligence and the Mossad have submitted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two separate reports regarding the fate of the missing Air Force navigator Ron Arad, Channel 2 News reported Monday night. According to the reports, based on an extensive examination of the entire body of information regarding the missing airman, including new information that appeared over the past two years, Arad died after his first few years in captivity.
Lieutenant Colonel Ron Arad, born in 1958, has been officially classified as missing in action since October 16, 1986, when he and pilot Yishai Aviram were on a mission to attack PLO targets near Sidon, Lebanon. A bomb dropped by their F-4 plane exploded prematurely, causing damage to the aircraft and forcing both crewmen to eject. Aviram was located by an Israeli Cobra and escaped by clinging to one of its landing skids as it flew away under heavy enemy fire. Arad was captured by the Lebanese movement Amal.
Arad was brought to Beirut where he was held by then-head of security of Amal, Mustafa Dirani. Amal chief Nabih Berri announced that he was holding Arad, and proposed an exchange for Shiite and Lebanese prisoners held in Israel.
In 1987, three letters in Arad’s handwriting and two photos of a bearded Arad were received, proving he was still alive. The Israeli government negotiated for his release, but talks failed in 1988. From that point on no credible information about Arad has been received, while many unsubstantiated claims of his whereabouts are still being made.
Israeli commandos captured Hezbollah member Abdel Karim Obeid in 1989, and Mustafa Dirani in 1994, and interrogated both of them about Arad’s fate. Dirani reportedly disclosed that in May 1988 Arad was turned over first to a Hezbollah unit and then to Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who may have taken him to Iran. Obeid and Dirani were released in 2004 as part of a prisoner exchange.
The IDF wanted to declare Arad as a fallen soldier whose burial-place is unknown, based on information funneled from Iran through a German source. But the navigator’s family rejected the idea, refusing to accept anything other than hard evidence. Several committees that examined the information regarding Arad have concluded the chances that he is alive are miniscule, but were not able to offer a conclusive statement.
The Israeli government has spent millions on the search for Arad, and offered a $10 million reward to anyone who could provide reliable new information. The family is no longer pressuring the military to keep up the search for their loved one, and the Born Free association that had been set up to look for Arad was dissolved back in 2012.