Copyright 2003 Jerusalem Post
HEADLINE: Report: Missing navigator Ron Arad may still be alive
BYLINE: MARGOT DUDKEVITCH
A special committee set up last year to reassess and examine the situation regarding the fate of missing IAF navigator Ron Arad believe he is still alive and noted that it has not received any evidence showing otherwise.
According to a Channel One report the committee headed by retired Judge Eliahu Winograd submitted its findings to Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon three weeks ago. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered the establishment of the committee last year when he was Chief of Staff and asked the team to review and reassess all intelligence information regarding the navigator who was forced to ditch his plane in Lebanon in 1986 due to technical failure, and assess whether there was a change in his status.
"In the past weeks there has been certain news regarding the possibility of releasing and returning those kidnapped and missing," said Mofaz in an interview on Army Radio on Tuesday morning. However he added "I believe we are still far from seeing the implementation of such a move that we all wish for."
Seventeen years have passed since Arad fell captive said Mofaz, "we also have Tannenbaum and those missing from the Sultan Ya;acov battle as well as those kidnapped, the boys kidnapped in Mount Dov and Elhanan Tannenbaum," he said. Mofaz said while he was unable to divulge further details supreme efforts are being made "and we hope they will reap fruit."
Meanwhile Channel 10 reported that German mediator Ernst Uhrlau was permitted on Monday to visit Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani who remain in administrative detention in Israel.
The two were captured by IDF forces in Lebanon in 1989 and 1994 in the hope they would shed light on Arad's fate and where he was being held captive. Last week Uhrlau was permitted to visit Col. (res) Elhanan Tannenbaum who was kidnapped by the Hizbullah in October 2000 not long after St.-Sgts. Omar Sawayid, Benny Avraham, and Adi Avitan were wounded and captured from an IDF position on Mount Dov. According to reports efforts are underway between Israel and the Hizbullah in to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Obeid and Dirani being returned to Lebanon in exchange for the return of Tannenbaum and the three IDF soldiers captured at Mount Dov.
The committee is not involved in the current prisoner exchange negotiations between Israel and the Hizbullah, the TV reported. However, two senior Hizbullah leaders in Israel's custody and who's names have come up in the recent prisoner exchange negotiations, Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani, were kidnapped as bargaining chips to try obtain Ron Arad's freedom.
The two Hizbullah prisoners are expected to be released in exchange for Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum.
The IDF Spokesperson said the Vinograd committee report is currently being examined by the intelligence community.
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