Iran 3: Missing Israeli airman “in Tehran cell”

October 14, 2003

CONTENTS

1. "Missing Israeli airman 'in Tehran cell'" (Daily Star, Beirut, October 11, 2003)
2. "Official denies Iran has Israeli airman" (AP, October 12, 2003)
3. "PM, ministers discuss prisoner swap with Hezbollah" (Ha'aretz)


[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch follows yesterday's ones about Iran, and is part of a series I am sending out. This one concerns the fate of missing Israeli Air Force navigator Ron Arad. According to new reports, Arad is being held in an Iranian prison, and was operated upon to paralyze his legs in order to prevent him from escaping.

I attach three articles with summaries first:

SUMMARIES

1. "Missing Israeli airman 'in Tehran cell'" (The Daily Star, Beirut, October 11, 2003). "Missing Israeli Air Force navigator Ron Arad, whose airplane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986, is alive according to reports. Top-selling Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot quoted an Iranian exile as saying that Arad was held by Iranian intelligence in a prison cell near Tehran. The interviewed exile also said that Arad's health was failing and he was hospitalized more than once for heart failure. His knees were presumably operated on, forcing him to use a wheel chair, after he tried to escape while he was still in Lebanon prior to 1994. The newspaper also claimed that Arad was transferred to Syria in 1994, before he was taken to Iran where he is still being held captive. News on Arad came amid reports that mediated Israeli-Hizbullah negotiations were close to a deal in which Israel would release hundreds of Palestinians and 20 Lebanese detainees, in return for Hizbullah's release of reserve Colonel Elhanan Tennenbaum and three other Israeli soldiers whose fate is unknown." [Note: Elhanan Tennenbaum is an Israeli businessman lured to the United Arab Emirates in 2000, where he was kidnapped, but is referred to as a "colonel" by the Lebanese press.]

2. "Official denies Iran has Israeli airman" (The Associated Press, October 12, 2003). "Iran's ambassador to Lebanon on Saturday denied an Israeli newspaper report that missing Israeli airman Ron Arad was being held in Iran. Arad's plane was shot down over southern Lebanon in 1986 and he was captured by pro-Syrian militiamen and later disappeared. His name has surfaced in recent negotiations for a prisoner swap between Israel and the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah... Until 1999, Arad was held in a secret detention facility outside Tehran, the Iranian capital, the report said."

3. "PM, ministers discuss prisoner swap with Hezbollah" (Ha'aretz). "... Air Force navigator Ron Arad is alive and held by the Iranian intelligence in a small, secret jail near Tehran, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Friday, quoting three Iranian exiles. One of the sources is a diplomat and the two others former intelligence officials, all whom are currently in Europe... The paper said that the three have given testimonies in the west on other Iranian issues and that it is reasonable to assume that they have no reason to lie or fabricate the information on Arad. According to the one of sources, Arad was transferred from Lebanon via Syria to Iran in mid 1994. Before the trip he underwent an operation to paralyze his legs in order to prevent him from escaping. The source said Arad had attempted to escape while he was in Lebanon, and was then shot and wounded by his guards. The source said he worked in the prison Arad was taken to, which is near Tehran, not far from a missile factory, and that he had access to Arad's files. He said that he saw Arad several times and even exchanged words with him."

 



FULL ARTICLES

MISSING ISRAELI AIRMAN "IN TEHRAN CELL"

Missing Israeli airman 'in Tehran cell'
Iranian exile claims knowledge of Arad
By Hussain Abdul-Hussain Daily Star staff
The Daily Star, Beirut
October 11, 2003

Missing Israeli Air Force navigator Ron Arad, whose airplane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986, is alive according to reports on Friday.

The reports were coupled with news of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon heading the ministerial Committee of Five commissioned to finalize the detainees' swap deal with Hizbullah through a German mediator.

Top-selling Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot quoted an Iranian exile as saying that Arad was held by Iranian intelligence in a prison cell near Tehran.

The interviewed exile also said that Arad's health was failing and he was hospitalized more than once for heart failure. His knees were presumably operated on, forcing him to use a wheel chair, after he tried to escape while he was still in Lebanon prior to 1994.

The newspaper also claimed that Arad was transferred to Syria in 1994, before he was taken to Iran where he is still being held captive.

News on Arad came amid reports that mediated Israeli-Hizbullah negotiations were close to a deal in which Israel would release hundreds of Palestinians and 20 Lebanese detainees, in return for Hizbullah's release of reserve Colonel Elhanan Tennenbaum and three other Israeli soldiers whose fate is unknown. The four men have been in Hizbullah hands since October 2000.

The deal was also said to have included a Hizbullah pledge to disseminate information about Arad's fate in return for Israeli information about Iranian diplomats kidnapped in Lebanon during the civil war.

Israel refused to include the name of detained Palestinian official Marwan Barghouti on its list of to-be-released detainees.

Also on Friday, Israel's radio reported that Sharon headed the Committee of Five that is composed of Sharon, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Industry Minister Ehud Olmert and Justice Minister Yosef Lapid.

Israeli national radio said that Sharon was trying to offer a full swap scheme before his Cabinet during its weekly Sunday meeting and that he was hoping to muster enough political support to finalize the deal with Hizbullah.

 

OFFICIAL DENIES IRAN HAS ISRAELI AIRMAN

Official denies Iran has Israeli airman
The Associated Press
October 11, 2003

Iran's ambassador to Lebanon on Saturday denied an Israeli newspaper report that missing Israeli airman Ron Arad was being held in Iran.

Arad's plane was shot down over southern Lebanon in 1986 and he was captured by pro-Syrian militiamen and later disappeared. His name has surfaced in recent negotiations for a prisoner swap between Israel and the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah.

On Friday, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot quoted three Iranian defectors in Europe as saying Arad was crippled by his captors and later taken to Syria and then Iran. Until 1999, Arad was held in a secret detention facility outside Tehran, the Iranian capital, the report said.

"We have repeatedly denied these allegations and announced that we have no information about the fate of Ron Arad," Iranian Ambassador Massoud Idrissi said during a visit to the southern Lebanese city of Sidon.

The Israelis government has refused to comment on Yediot Ahronot's report. The newspaper cautioned readers it was unable to corroborate the defector's claims.

Latest reports about the German-brokered negotiations for a prisoner swap say it will not involve Arad, but Hezbollah will trade Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers for several hundred Arab prisoners held by Israel.

Tannenbaum was kidnapped on a trip to the United Arab Emirates in 2000, and the three soldiers were abducted along the Israeli-Lebanese border the same year.

Hezbollah has said for several years that it has tried in vain to find Arad's whereabouts. The militant group seeks the release of two Lebanese guerrilla leaders, Abdel-Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani. Israel seized Obeid in 1989 and Dirani in 1994, reportedly as bargaining chips to secure the release of Arad.

 

PM, MINISTERS DISCUSS PRISONER SWAP WITH HEZBOLLAH

PM, ministers discuss prisoner swap with Hezbollah
Ha'artez
October 2003

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met Friday with members of his "Committee of Five," a ministerial panel of senior cabinet members, for an update on the state of the prisoner-exchange negotiations with Hezbollah. After the meeting, the Prime Minister's Office announced that the talks would continue, and that the Knesset would be asked to approved any future deal.

The committee is comprised of Sharon, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Industry Minister Ehud Olmert and Justice Minister Yosef Lapid. The government's unofficial chief negotiator, Ilan Biran, also participated.

The meeting is an indication that Sharon is starting to round up the political support he needs for the deal, which will see Israel freeing hundreds of Palestinian and others, along with Lebanese prisoners, in exchange for Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of soldiers Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omer Suweid.

Sharon favors the deal, and has promised to bring it to the full plenum of the government for its approval. Mofaz believes the deal should include some reference to missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad.

Meanwhile, a Tel Aviv District Court yesterday lifted a gag order on what is known about how Tannenbaum was lured into Hezbollah custody; but the Tannenbaum family, which wanted the gag kept in place, has until Monday afternoon to appeal the decision. Only on Tuesday morning can the press publish what is known to it about the circumstances of Tannenbaum's capture.

Nonetheless, the court decision did include the information that police are investigating suspicions that Israeli Arabs might have helped Hezbollah lure the kidnapped businessman into captivity.

The petition to lift the three-year-old gag order was filed by Haaretz and Channel 10, which argued that the public had the right to know the circumstances of Tannenbaum's kidnapping so it could judge the emerging prisoner exchange.

Arad alive, jailed near Tehran Missing Air Force navigator Ron Arad is alive and held by the Iranian intelligence in a small, secret jail near Tehran, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Friday, quoting three Iranian exiles.

One of the sources is a diplomat and the two others former intelligence officials, all whom are currently in Europe.

Arad has been missing since his plane was downed over Lebanon in 1986.

The paper said that it could not establish or refute the testimonies of the three men in Israel, and says that the claims must be treated with caution and suspicion.

The paper said that the three have given testimonies in the west on other Iranian issues and that it is reasonable to assume that they have no reason to lie or fabricate the information on Arad.

According to the one of sources, Arad was transferred from Lebanon via Syria to Iran in mid 1994. Before the trip he underwent an operation to paralyze his legs in order to prevent him from escaping. The source said Arad had attempted to escape while he was in Lebanon, and was then shot and wounded by his guards.

The source said he worked in the prison Arad was taken to, which is near Tehran, not far from a missile factory, and that he had access to Arad's files. He said that he saw Arad several times and even exchanged words with him.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.