New clues in the 30-year old case of Ron Arad emerged this week as the IDF censor cleared for publication details in the search for the Israeli Air Force navigator shot down over Lebanon in 1986.
According to a report by Yediot Ahronot, over the past year, Israel has been in contact with Hezbollah, via a Western intermediary, in an effort to finally solve the mystery of Arad’s fate.
The Shi’ite terror group reportedly expressed optimism regarding the prospects of uncovering the details of Arad’s captivity, noting progress in recent months. They added, however, that locating Arad’s remains has been hampered by changes over the years to the landscape.
“They [the sources within Hezbollah] said that the land in the area where Arad was buried has moved and been changed since it happened [his burial].”
“They’re continuing their efforts and are confident that they will succeed in the end to locate his grave.”
Aside from Hezbollah, Israeli investigators have also received – again, via a Western intermediary – cooperation from Iranian officials.
Dr. Ronen Bergman explained Iran’s interest in solving the Arad mystery, writing that the Islamic regime has sought clues regarding its own captives – four Iranian diplomats who disappeared in Lebanon in 1982. The Iranian regime had accused Israel of being behind the abduction of the four, and claimed they were still alive in Israeli captivity.
In 2004, Israel revealed to Iran – through German negotiators, who passed the material on to Hezbollah – information regarding the kidnapping, torture, and execution of the four diplomats by members of a Phalangist Christian militia. Despite the revelation, says, Bergman, Iranian officials have sought additional details of the abductions and the location of the four.
In 2005 and 2006, Hezbollah officials ramped up their efforts to gather details on the Arad abduction, contacting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Lebanon’s intellogence agencies.
Hezbollah also conducted digs around possible burial sites, revealing human remains which were then forwarded to Israel for DNA testing. In each case, however, the results were negative.
Over the past year, joint efforts between Israel and Hezbollah – and via Hezbollah, Iran – to uncover Arad’s remains and uncover the details of his captivity have been renewed.
Amir Teherani, an Iranian journalist living abroad with ties to some factions within the Iranian government, claimed the chairman of the Iranian parliament has offered to finally settle accounts regarding Ron Arad and the missing Iranian officials, proposing a swap of the remains.
Teherani added that in May, Israeli and Iranian representatives held extensive negotiations in Cyprus. Senior Israeli and Iranian officials, he claimed, took part in the talks.
Ron Arad was captured by members of the Shi’ite militia ‘Amal’ after he and pilot Yishai Aviram were forced to eject over Lebanon in October 1986.
While Aviram was retrieved by Israeli forces, the rescue team came under heavy fire, and was unable to locate Arad before evacuating.
In the late 1980s Arad was handed over to Hezbollah, before being transferred to Iranian forces. In the mid-1990s Arad, reportedly suffering from an illness, was refused medical treatment, and died in captivity. Israeli investigators believed Arad death occurred sometime between 1993 – after the last sign of life was produced – and 1997.