Iran is Holding Missing Airman, Family Tells Supporters at Rally

There is “definite” information that missing Israeli air force pilot Ron Arad, captured in Lebanon six years ago, is in Iranian hands, his brother told a solidarity rally over the weekend.

Chen Arad spoke as speculation mounted that two Germans held in Lebanon for more than three years would be freed within hours.

Over 1,500 friends and supporters of the missing airman attended the rally in Givat Ala, in the Jezreel Valley, held outside the house which he and his wife, Tami, were building at the time of his capture, but in which they have never lived. The cottage was completed by friends and fellow members of their moshav.

Arad has long been the only Israeli still missing in Lebanon thought to be alive. Hopes that he might be freed be freed were raised last year as U.N. negotiators brokered the release of several Western hostages. But those hopes were dashed when the last of the American and British hostages were freed in December.

There has been no published word about the Israeli prisoner of war, who has variously been reported to be held by different Moslem groups.

Reports that the two German hostages, Thomas Kemptner and Heinrich Strubig, would soon be freed were given credibility by the arrival in Beirut on Sunday of the U.N. special hostage negotiator, Giandomenico Picco, who has been on hand in the past when Western captives have been released.

And German government officials in Bonn reported that Bernd Schmidbauer, state minister in the chancellery of Helmut Kohl, had flown to Syria on Sunday. All hostages have been released from the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The English-language Teheran Times reported in Iran that obstacles for the Germans’ release had been cleared and said that the two could be freed by Sunday night or Monday morning.

There has been no word on any deal involving the release in Germany of the two brothers, Mohammed and Abbas Hamadi, who are being held for terrorist acts. It is believed that the Hamadi clan in Lebanon is responsible for the capture of the two Germans.

Last week, Germany insisted that it had made no commitments to the kidnappers of the Germans to release the Hamadis.

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