Copyright 2004 Jerusalem Post
HEADLINE: Fly-past to mark 18 years since Ron Arad's capture
BYLINE: DAVID RUDGE
Pilots from the IAF squadron in which missing navigator Lt.-Col. Ron Arad served are to stage a fly-past over parts of the country starting at 10:30 a.m. Friday to mark the 18th anniversary of his capture.
A wing of the squadron is to fly from the Ramat David base over parts of the Galilee and then from Nahariya to Ashkelon, continuing over Sderot and other parts of the Negev.
Afterwards there is to be a meeting between members of Arad's family, friends, and colleagues from his training course with current members of the squadron at the IAF's Hatzerim base.
Yoske Harari, chairman of the Fellowship for Ron Arad's release, said hundreds of pupils at schools in the Tel Aviv region will also stage ceremonies and release balloons as part of events to mark the anniversary.
Arad went missing after ejecting from his defective plane over southern Lebanon on October 16, 1986. (The anniversary ceremonies were brought forward one day this year to avoid conflicting with Shabbat.) He was captured by members of the Lebanese Amal Shi'ite movement and he was held by its then-chief security officer Mustafa Dirani who later reportedly sold him to Iran.
Subsequently, Hizbullah spiritual leader in south Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, was abducted from Lebanon in 1989 and, five years later, Dirani himself was snatched from his home. Both were brought to Israel. They were initially intended to have been bargaining chips for the return of Arad or at least for reliable information about his fate.
Both were among those released by Israel in exchange for Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three soldiers, St.-Sgts. Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham, and Omar Suwayeed who were kidnapped and killed by Hizbullah terrorists in an ambush in the Mount Dov region in October 2000.
The second phase of the exchange deal is reportedly to include the release of more prisoners held by Israel, including Lebanese Druse Samir Kuntar, in return for concrete information about Arad. Kuntar was responsible for the killing of a father, two of his daughters, and a policeman, in Nahariya in 1979.
German mediator Ernest Uhrlau is reported to be continuing his efforts to broker a deal with Hizbullah.
"From what we have learned from the Prime Minister and those dealing with the matter, the mediator is trying to move matters forward but, until now, there has not been anything new," Harari told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Harari quoted the head of the Hatzerim base, whom he met earlier this week, as saying that despite the passage of 18 years the matter had to be treated as if Ron went missing yesterday. "'We have to do everything to bring him back today, or tomorrow.'"
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