Ron Arad

The Tragic Saga of .Israeli Lt. Col. Ron Arad

If former Israeli Air Force Lt. Col. Ron Arad were alive today, he would be celebrating his 60th birthday on May 5 this year. Unfortunately, instead it has been concluded that Ron Arad is no longer among the living and that he died in captivity many years ago, though exactly when has been contested over the years. .  .

The saga of Ron Arad’s  plane crash over Lebanon,  subsequent capture by Shi’ite terrorist elements, and of various secretive incarcerations  in  Lebanon and Iran has filled a spate of often conflicting media reports over the years, resulting in the name Ron Arad remaining in the Israeli consciousness for a prolonged period.

It all began on the 16th of October in 1986. Arad and pilot Yishai Aviram were on a mission to attack PLO targets near Sidon, Lebanon. A bomb dropped by their F-4 Phantom II fighter jet apparently exploded prematurely, causing damage to the aircraft and forcing both crewmen to eject. Aviram was located by an Israeli helicopter after a few hours and was rescued. But Arad was captured and brought to Beirut, where he was held by the Amal Shi’ite organization, which proposed an exchange for Shiite and Lebanese prisoners held in Israel. No agreement was ever reached.

In 1987, three letters in Arad’s handwriting and two photos of a bearded Arad were received, proving Arad was alive. The Israeli government negotiated for his release, but talks failed in 1988. After this time, credible information about Arad has been hard to obtain, though unsubstantiated claims of new information were made regularly over the years. Major official and clandestine efforts were conducted by Israel since Arad’s disappearance to try and verify his status, but to no avail.

In December 2003, an organization seeking information about Arad issued a reward of $10 million to anyone coming forward with such  information. Unfortunately, even that incredible offer did not result in any concrete, documented information to be brought forth.

In 2004, Aman, the IDF’s military intelligence branch, formed a secret commission to investigate Arad’s fate, headed by Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash. After examining all possible avenues of information,  The Farkash commission concluded that Arad had died sometime between  1993 and 1997, with no signs of life received since 1995.. While the majority of the commission members concluded that Arad had died in early 1995, others said that he probably died in late 1996 or early 1997.

Then, on  June 29, 2008, United Nations negotiator Gerhard Konrad informed the Israeli government that according to the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, Arad had been killed during an escape attempt in 1988.

After many years of investigation of  conflicting  information from Israeli, Arab and Iranian sources, Israeli media reported  in 2016 that a joint investigation carried out by the Israeli Mossad  intelligence agency and  Military Intelligence of the Israeli Defense Forces concluded that Arad had indeed died in 1988. That, apparently, has been the last word in the tragedy of Ron Arad.