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Copyright 2004 Jerusalem Post
February 2

HEADLINE: Bone fragment received from Hizbullah is not Ron Arad's


Israel has received a bone fragment from Hizbullah within the past six weeks, purportedly taken from missing airman Ron Arad, but it did not match his DNA.

The gag order barring reporting about the delivery of the bone fragment was lifted Monday morning.

Israel's acknowledged acceptance of a bone fragment could mean that after 17 years in the hands of Amal militiamen and then Iran, Arad is no longer alive, as many in the security establishment have come to believe.

The bone fragment arrived in Israel approximately six weeks ago, a government source confirmed Monday morning. "What is clear, is that it was not Ron Arad," he said.

It was delivered through the office of the German mediator, Ernst Uhrlau, from Hizbullah, the government source said.

Since the advent of DNA testing it has become customary to check the DNA of live prisoners by simply taking a sample of hair, fingernail, or skin. The dispatching of bone fragments connotes death of the subject.

"This is not the first time in our dealings with Hizbullah that we have received bone parts from there [Lebanon]," Dr. Yehuda Hiss, the head of the L. Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, told Channel 2.

According to the Channel 2 report, Israel is to receive Arad's jaw bone. A jaw bone or chin bone allows for quick identification and can also indicate the year of death.

If, in fact, Israel, Hizbullah, and Iran are beginning to trade information, the second phase of the prisoner swap could be under way.

According to an informed source, the Iranian delegation dispatched to Beirut this week was sent to confirm information Israel sent to Lebanon regarding four Iranian diplomats who are missing since 1982.

The second phase of the "understanding in humanitarian issues" brokered between Hizbullah and Israel stipulates that committees are to be established "by all sides" to shed light on the fate of Arad and the four missing Iranian diplomats.

According to Iranian sources, "sound and serious information" about Arad is to be presented within the next few weeks.

The exact make-up of these "committees" remains nebulous and, according to some observers, they may function as smoke screens for Israel and Iran. Neither admits to withholding information regarding the other's MIAs. But as Monday's developments indicate, they may know more than they can officially state.

The understanding maps out a framework that should be completed in two to three months from the date of last Thursday's exchange.

For its part, Israel's efforts in the second phase of the prisoner swap focus almost entirely on gleaning information on Arad. This, despite the fact that four other MIAs - Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, Zvi Feldman, and Guy Hever - are still unaccounted for.

Israel has had little or no concrete information about Arad since his original captor, Mustafa Dirani, either lost or sold him to members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in May 1988.

One of the slain Iranian diplomats was a close relative of former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani, an Iranian source told The Jerusalem Post.

Samir Geagea, a Phalangist Lebanese militia leader, and a one-time subcontractor for the IDF, reportedly kidnapped and then killed the diplomats at a checkpoint outside Beirut. Their bodies were never found.

The price for "sound and serious information" on Arad, as stated in the understanding, will be high. Israel will ask several European countries to free Iranian prisoners.

Two of the four perpetrators of the 1992 Mykonos massacre - the slaying of four anti-Iran Kurdish leaders in a Berlin restaurant - and others will reportedly be among those freed. The two assassins, Kazem Darabi and Abbas Rayal, killed Iranian Kurd leader Sadegh Sharafkandi and three other men in the attack, according to Time magazine.

The Mykonos affair temporarily soured relations between Germany and Iran, relations that have since become closer.

Another man who might go free is Muhammad Ali Hamadi, a Hizbullah terrorist serving a life sentence in Germany for torturing and murdering US Navy diver Robbie Stethem in the 1985 hijacking of a TWA flight.

England might release former Iranian ambassador to Argentina Hade Soleimanpour, who was remanded in England this year in connection with the 1994 bombing in Argentina, in which 84 people were killed and 300 were wounded.

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