Copyright 1995 Associated Press
April 15, 1995
HEADLINE: Palestinian Leader Accounts For Missing Israelis
DATELINE: NICOSIA, Cyprus
A radical Palestinian guerrilla leader says Lebanese militants with whom he is allied are holding the bodies of four Israeli soldiers, but that the fate of an airman captured in 1986 is not known.
Ahmed Jibril, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, spoke in an interview with the Arabic-language weekly Al-Wasat, which is published in London. The interview appears in Monday's issue of the magazine, but an advance text was made available to The Associated Press Saturday.
Israel says six of its servicemen are missing in Lebanon, some since 1982. They include the airman, Ron Arad, who was captured in October 1986 after his F-4 Phantom was shot down during a raid on south Lebanon.
Jibril, who was interviewed in Damascus, spoke of four bodies and Arad. But he said there were other Israelis killed in fighting during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon ''who may have been mistaken for Syrian soldiers and buried in Syria...''
He said the Shiite Muslim fundamentalist group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, is holding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
Yossi Fink and Rahamim Alsheikh were wounded when captured by Hezbollah in an Israeli-occupied enclave in south Lebanon on Feb. 17, 1986. Hezbollah has said they both died shortly thereafter.
Three other Israelis 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. They were believed to have been taken to Damascus and paraded as prisoners of war.
Jibril said the Syrian-backed Amal, which rivals Hezbollah for mastery of the Shiite community in Lebanon, has the bodies of two Israelis. He did not name them.
Israel says it has information that Arad may still be alive. Seeking word on his whereabouts, Israeli commandos last year raided a village in eastern Lebanon and kidnapped a guerrilla leader, believed to have held Arad captive.
Jibril ridiculed the May 21 abduction of Mustafa Dirani, leader of the Believers Resistance group. ''I know that even Dirani knows nothing about Arad's whereabout,'' he said.
Jibril said that Dirani had held Arad in Maidoun, a village in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, some 30 miles (48 kilometers) form Beirut.
''Then there was an Israeli air raid and there were casualties and the guards all rushed to check on their families and property,'' said Jibril. ''That was the last time anyone saw Arad.''
Jibril did not give the date of the raid. He said that investigation into the disappearance of the prisoner yielded two theories that he ran away during thep ost-raid panic, or that a guard who lost a relative in the attack killed him inr evenge.
Asked about reports that Dirani had turned Arad over to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard contingent based in Lebanon in return for a large sum of money, Jibril replied: ''That is not true.''
Jibril said that in addition to the Israelis missing in Lebanon, the Palestinian group Hamas has the body of an Israeli soldier it had kidnapped in southern Israel five years ago.
Ilan Saadon, 19, disappeared on May 3, 1989, after accepting a lift on his way from an israeli army base to his home in Ashkelon. Israel believes he has been killed.
In September 1991, Hamas offered to include Saadon in a hostage exchange deal.