Israel’s security community has come to the conclusion that Air Force navigator Ron Arad, who disappeared 30 years ago when he ejected from his stricken plane over Lebanon, died within two years of vanishing, Channel 2 said Monday.
A joint report by the Mossad spy agency and the Israel Defense Forces’s Directorate of Military Intelligence, which includes new information obtained over the past two years, says Arad likely died by 1988, earlier than was previously believed, the TV report said.
The navigator disappeared after he and pilot Yishai Aviram bailed out of their plane over southern Lebanon.
Aviram was rescued shortly afterwards, but Arad was never found. Israel believes he was captured by the Shiite Amal movement before being handed over to Iran, and moved from Lebanon to Iran and then back again.
Israel declared the airman dead in 2008.
The report noted that much of the information remains under wraps as all branches of Israel’s security continue to try to solve the puzzle of Arad’s fate.
Arad’s family — including his daughter Yuval, today 30 and the mother of a daughter of her own — has been updated on the new security assessment, the TV report said.
A 2004 IDF commission determined that Arad had died in the 1990s after being denied medical treatment for a serious illness, and was buried in the Beqaa Valley.
In 2006, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the group believed Arad was dead and his burial site unknown; in 2008, German negotiator Gerhard Konrad told Israel that Hezbollah said Arad died during a 1988 escape attempt.
In February, the Daily Star reported that one of five people recently summoned to a Lebanese military tribunal for suspected contact with Israel told the court that he knew what had happened to the Israeli navigator.
The report stated that one of the defendants, which it identified only as Moufeed K., claimed that in 1988 he had been an official in the military wing of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party when he was informed that other members of the group had a captive.
Moufeed reportedly told the court that he and his comrades took their captive to the town of Dhour Choueir, not far from Beirut, but could not recall whether their prisoner had been wearing an aviator’s uniform at the time. He said that he had told his men to clean up their captive and departed, only to be informed a short time later that the prisoner had died.