- (1958- )Missing Israeli airman believed to be held by Iran or by Iranian-backed Lebanese militant groups. On 16 October 1986, an Israel Air Force Phantom aircraft was downed by mechanical problems over Sidon in southern Lebanon. The pilot and the navigator bailed out and landed safely, and the pilot was rescued by an Israeli helicopter patrol. However, the navigator, Captain Ron Arad, was taken prisoner by a local cell of the Amal Shi'ite organization. Direct responsibility for Arad's welfare was passed to Mustafa Di-rani, the head of Amal's security service. At the beginning of 1988, Dirani split from Amal over ideological differences, forming a pro-Iranian group called the Faithful Resistance and taking Arad with him. Dirani's group was subsequently incorporated into the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Movement, and there is speculation that Arad was transferred to Iranian forces in Lebanon or perhaps moved to Iran itself. Neither Iran nor Hezbollah ever formally acknowledged that they were holding Arad, but in July 1998, a senior Hezbollah official publicly pledged to search for information about him.Arad's name was frequently mentioned in negotiations over prisoner exchanges involving Israel and Hezbollah and other Lebanese-based guerrilla factions, and indeed, over the years, Israeli forces captured top Hezbollah and Amal officials in part in the hope of acquiring reliable information about Arad's status or exchanging the officials for him. Arad (or reliable information about him) was not part of a 29 January 2004 exchange of prisoners involving Israel and Hezbollah; it was speculated that such information was being withheld by Hezbollah until Israel agreed to release additional terrorists. Arad's status— as well as the status of other soldiers missing in Lebanon—remains a very sensitive issue for many Israelis.
Historical Dictionary of Israel. Bernard Reich David H. Goldberg. Edited by Jon Woronoff..
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