Downed pilot Ron Arad
Downed pilot Ron Arad Israel News Photo: (archive)

Downed Israeli navigator Ron Arad was known to be alive nine years after he crashed in Lebanon in 1986, and apparently died in the mid-1990s while still held in captivity by the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group Amal, according to a secret IDF military intelligence report.

Sources quoted Sunday in the Hebrew-language daily Yediot Acharonot said the report reviewed all available evidence on Arad’s status after his F-4 Phantom was shot down over Lebanon, he was captured by Amal, and then later turned over to Iran. A secret committee established four years ago under former Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Farkash prepared the report and concluded that Arad died from an unknown illness.

Zeevi-Farkas’ committee reviewed the entire sequence of events which transpired following the plane crash and kidnapping on October 16, 1986, including the Israeli Intelligence community's efforts to recover information regarding Arad, and Germany brokered negotiations between Israel and Amal.

In 1988, Israel determined that Arad had disappeared from the home of the Amal officer guarding him. By the mid 1990s, he was believed to have been transferred to Iranian hands and German mediation efforts focused on Tehran. At one point during the 1990s, Iran informed a German mediator that they had no information on the status or whereabouts of Arad and Israel should contact the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terror group.

“We don’t know who Ron Arad is or where he is,” said Iran’s ambassador to Germany. “If you think he is in Lebanon or held by Hizbullah, see if Hassan Nasrallah can help you."

After several failed attempts to procure information on Arad during a 2004 prisoner exchange, Hizbullah said that given the right "incentive" it would be willing to go to great lengths to solve the mystery of Arad's disappearance. The offer was never actualized.

The secret committee estimated that Arad died from an illness some time before Iran’s message. It concluded that Arad had been taken to Iran so the Revolutionary Guards could claim the "prestigious" abduction for themselves and gain an upper hand in internal power struggles. Although Tehran repeatedly denied having any information on Arad, it is believed Arad was held by the group in strictest confidence and complete isolation.

The report does not include a location where Arad is buried, and states that IDF military intelligence remains unaware of its location. According to the paper, several experts reviewed the secret IDF report and confirmed its authenticity.

The report unequivocally concludes that Ron Arad should be considered a fallen IDF soldier whose place of burial remains unknown. The report shows that General Farkash accepted the committee’s conclusion and passed the recommendations on to the IDF Chief of Staff at the time, Dan Halutz. Farkash also made sure to inform the Prime Minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, who decided to hold off on the report’s conclusions until DNA testing confirmed either Arad’s death or traces of his body.