Report: Missing Israeli pilot Ron Arad died in 1988 after torture

Has a 30 year old mystery on the fate of Ron Arad, the Israeli Air Force navigator who went missing after a mission in Lebanon in 1986, been solved? A Lebanese terrorist says he has the true story on how Arad died in captivity.

A report by a Lebanese newspaper claims to shed light on the whereabouts and fate of missing IAF navigator Ron Arad, who went missing as his plane was downed over Lebanon while flying a mission in 1986.

The Beirut-based Daily Star reported Saturday that the 30-year mystery may finally be solved following testimony by suspects at the Military Tribunal in Lebanon.

Five defendants, named as George D., Mahdi D., Moufeed K., Elias D. and Karena T. were summoned to appear before the court on charges of spying for Israel and the Mossad, while they claim they have given false information about Arad in exchange for money.

Moufeed declared while in court that he knew the actual story of the missing pilot and began “regaling the court with a twisting narrative that ended with Arad dying under torture in the custody of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in 1988,” the Star reported.

At the time, the five suspects were all members of the party.

Arad has tragically become one of Israel’s most famous MIA’s after he and his copilot Yishai Aviram ejected from their Phantom jet while conducting strikes on Palestine Liberation Organization enclaves around Sidon October 16, 1986.

Aviram was rescued several hours later in a daring mission, while Arad was captured by the Amal terror organization.

Amal demanded a prisoner swap in exchange for Arad, but before the deal could go ahead Mustafa Dirani, the organization’s head of security at the time, abducted Arad and went into hiding in the Bekaa Valley. Dirani then split from Amal and joined the Hezbollah terror organization.

Reports that Arad was still alive continued to surface throughout the next year, including video footage of him and information he had been taken to the southeast village of Maydoun. The village was attacked in May 1988 to rescue Arad, and during the battle he is believed to have managed to escape his captors.

At this point little is known about Arad’s fate. Israel has searched for him for 20 years, with some of the tracks leading even to Iran.

An Israeli commission announced he was dead in 2008, basing its decision on a Hezbollah report which determined that he had died in captivity in 1988. The details of Hezbollah finding remain confidential and are yet to be released to the public.

Moufeed’s testimony may fill in this gap of knowledge.

“I want to tell the story in all its details,” Moufeed told the court, according to the Star‘s report. “In 1988 I was an official with the SSNP military arm. … I got a call and was informed that a group of young men had arrested a person,” who Moufeed says his men were suspicious of.

Moufeed claims they then questioned the suspect, but didn’t get far, saying, “He spoke many languages fluently. If you speak to him in Arabic he would answer in French; if you speak in French he would reply in Spanish; and if you spoke to him in English he would reply in French.”

The men took their captive to Dhour Choueir, but Moufeed said he couldn’t confirm if his captive wore a pilot’s uniform at the time. He says he ordered his men to tidy up the man and dress him in clean clothes.

A short while after Moufeed departed, his men informed him that their prisoner had died.

“They told me that he had entered the bathroom and stayed there for a long time. … When they went to check on him they found him dead,” he claimed, adding that it was only after his death that they learned he was the missing pilot.

“Of course he passed away due to exhaustion and of course he was subject to beatings and torture as that is how interrogations happen,” Moufeed explained.

However, years later the case returned. “In 1998 we got a call from our officer telling us that the media was circulating pictures and information about Ron Arad,” he said.

“I then went to our base to ask the young men who were involved where they had buried our prisoner.”

He then says they went to the villa in Bolonia and dug up the body to confirm that the corpse was indeed that of Arad. Moufeed says the men told him they had asked the man if he was Arad and promised to help him if he was.

With the new information, Moufeed, Elias and Mahdi then decided to schedule a meeting with the president at the time, Emile Lahoud. However, at this point in Moufeed’s trial, the presiding judge stopped proceedings and continued with a closed session. The hearing was adjourned until April 20.