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Copyright 2003 Haaretz
September 3

HEADLINE: Committee says no reason to assume MIA Arad is not alive

BYLINE: Amos Harel

A special committee appointed last year to review the case of missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad has determined that there is no available information that can refute the defense establishment's working assumption that Arad is still alive, Channel One reported last night.

The committee, headed by retired judge Eliahu Vinograd, recommends implementing actions that will assist in resolving Arad's fate. The team, appointed by Shaul Mofaz when he was Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, reviewed thousands of documents collected in the 17 years since Arad's plane went down over Lebanon. Three weeks ago, it presented a report to Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, and it is currently being studied by intelligence experts.

The team concluded its investigation as a prisoner exchange deal is apparently being negotiated between Israel and Hezbollah. According to media reports, Arad is not part of the deal which will likely include the return of two Lebanese prisoners, Mustafa Dirani and Sheikh Obeid. In the possible exchange, Israel hopes to receive businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and three IDF soldiers who were kidnapped along the Israel-Lebanon border in October 2001.

Military sources said that publication of the report might complicate the deal being brokered by a German moderator.

Arad was captured by the Amal militia in October 1986 after his plane went down over southern Lebanon due to a technical malfunction. He was later transferred to Hezbollah and was also likely to have been in the hands of Iranian authorities.

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