Hizbullah transferred to Israel letters written by long-missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad on Monday as part of a deal which included an exchange of bodies and Israel's release of a Hizbullah terrorist. So reports the Lebanese newspaper Al Ahbar Tuesday morning.
Arad was captured when his plane was shot down in Lebanon in October 1986. Tuesday marks the 21st anniversary of Arad's capture.
Also Tuesday, Arad's daughter and brother met with German authorities, asking them not to free an Iranian terrorist who has been imprisoned in Germany since 1992. The prisoner was to have served as a negotiating card for the release of Arad or information on him - but, despite the request, the Germans said they are required by their own law to expel foreign citizens imprisoned in their country after 15 years.
Al-Ahbar reports that Arad's brother and daughter knew of the impending transfer of Ron's papers and therefore made their request.
Monday afternoon, at the Rosh HaNikra Israel-Lebanon border crossing, Israel released the bodies of two Hizbullah terrorists, and a live but ill Hizbullah fighter, while Hizbullah handed over the body of an Israeli - an Ethiopian immigrant - who had drowned and was swept away to Lebanon in 2005. The drowned man, Gavriel Dawit, had been considered missing, and it was only recently learned that the Lebanese had his body all along.
Al-Ahbar reports that parallel to the mini-deal concluded Monday, talks continue regarding the more important deal to return the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah 15 months ago. Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were captured, and eight other soldiers were killed, in the multi-pronged attacks that set off the Second Lebanon War in July 2006.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he expects the mini-deal to be the first step of a more comprehensive exchange that will bring home Goldwasser and Regev.
The Lebanese paper says that Israel's refusal to release Samir Kuntar is what is keeping the two soldiers in captivity. Kuntar murdered a Jewish father and his baby daughter, and caused the death of a second daughter, in Nahariya in the late 1970's. Hizbullah chieftain Sheikh Nasrallah has made it his goal to force Israel to free Kuntar.
Nearly four years ago, when Israel freed hundreds of terrorist prisoners in exchange for Elchanan Tenenbaum and three dead IDF soldiers, Nasrallah promised to provide information on Ron Arad at a later date, in exchange for Kuntar's release. However, he never came through; Israeli officials said he tried but did not succeed.
Now, however, he has come up with papers written by Arad.
The Missing Israeli
Gavriel Dawit will be buried in his family's hometown of Be'er Sheva on Wednesday. Questions surrounding his disappearance and drowning abound, such as how his passport was returned from Lebanon showing no signs of ever having been wet, and why his disappearance was never publicly reported.
Dr. Mordechai Keidar, a lecturer of Arabic and Islamic Culture Studies at Bar Ilan University, told Israel Radio today that the pre-occupation of Israel's media with this story, and "with every drop of information that may be related, and with its desire to increase ratings," will raise the price for Israel in future deals. "In the Arab world, the more interest you show in merchandise, the more it will cost you," Keidar said.