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Copyright 2002 Associated Press
Associated Press

April 4, 2002

HEADLINE: Court document: Ron Arad had operation in Lebanese hospital

BYLINE: The Associated Press

In the first indication in years that Ron Arad may still be alive, an alleged Israeli spy has provided information that the missing Israeli airman was operated on in a hospital, court documents show.

The reference to Arad, whose warplane was downed over Lebanon in 1986, came in a charge sheet demanding the death penalty for six Lebanese who are in military custody for allegedly spying for Israel.

Beirut newspapers published the full text of the charge sheet yesterday.

The charge sheet claimed that one of the alleged spies, Imad Hussein al-Rizz, who worked at the Middle East Hospital in south Beirut, had received information from a doctor at the same hospital that Arad was alive and had been operated on at Al-Ahly Hospital in eastern Lebanon.

Al-Rizz also allegedly learned that Arad had been transferred to the nearby Baalbek Hospital. Baalbek is a Hezbollah guerrilla stronghold.

Al-Rizz traveled to Italy in February and passed on the information to an Israeli intelligence contact, receiving $3,000 cash in return, the charges allege.

It was not clear when Arad was allegedly operated on or transferred or what surgery was performed. But the claims marked the first time in years that specific information has been divulged about the Israeli airman whose plane went down in southern Lebanon in October 1986 when a bomb on his jet went off prematurely. The pilot was rescued in a daring operation, but Arad was captured by Lebanese guerrillas, who reportedly gave him to Iranian agents.

The leader of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has said he has no details on Arad's whereabouts. He has previously promised to try to uncover Arad's fate so that Hezbollah could trade him for Lebanese and other Arab prisoners in Israeli jails.

The charge sheet names the alleged members of the Israeli spy ring, which includes Hassan Hashem, a former prominent official of the Syrian-backed Shiite Muslim Amal militia.

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