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Copyright 1995 Chicago Tribune Company
Chicago Tribune

January 24, 1995


BYLINE: Associated Press.


The Iranian-backed Hezbollah for the first time has declared publicly that all six Israeli soldiers missing in Lebanon are dead.

The assertion was made by Hezbollah political chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah during a rally Sunday in south Beirut. Excerpts of his speech were published Monday by several Lebanese newspapers.

Israel has contended that at least one prisoner, airman Ron Arad, is still alive. Israeli commandos kidnapped a Hezbollah commander, Mustafa Dirani, from eastern Lebanon in May to interrogate him about Arad, who was seized in Lebanon in 1986.

Nasrallah made his statement while eulogizing a Hezbollah activist who died in an Israeli-run prison in southern Lebanon last week.

No one in the West, he said, "makes even a mention of the hundreds of prisoners suffering the ugliest forms of physical torture in the Khiam prison," Nasrallah said.

"Yet all demand the revelation of the fate of the missing Israeli soldiers in Lebanon, even though all of them had become dust," he said.

Nasrallah did not offer any evidence to support his claim.

Two missing Israelis, Yossi Fink and Rahamim Alsheikh, were captured by the Shiite Muslim guerrillas and reportedly seriously wounded in an ambush on an Israeli-occupied enclave of southern Lebanon enclave on Feb. 17, 1986.

Hezbollah repeatedly has offered to trade them for nearly 300 Shiite Muslim activists Israel holds in the occupied area. But party leaders never have said whether the two were dead or alive.

The three other MIAs - Sgt. Zachary Baumel, Sgt. Zvi Feldman and Cpl. Yehuda Katz - disappeared June 11, 1982, in a tank battle with the Syrian army during Israel's invasion of Lebanon.

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