TEL AVIV (Oct. 3)
In a display of solidarity for missing Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad, scores of private planes flew over northern Israel during the weekend to commemorate the seventh anniversary of his disappearance in southern Lebanon.
The airborne armada, which included 68 light aircraft, gathered Saturday at the airfield near Hadera from which Arad’s ill-fated flight in 1986 began. The planes retraced most of the route taken by Arad’s Phantom jet, landing at an airfield just south of the Lebanese border.
Arad bailed out from the fighter plane over Lebanon in 1986 and was believed to have been held by pro-Iranian troops in Lebanon. The last time any message was received that he was alive was in October 1987.
There have been sporadic reports that he was subsequently transferred to captivity in Iran.
Among those taking part in the solidarity display was the pilot on Arad’s flight, who at the time was rescued by Israeli helicopters after both men had bailed out. The helicopters were not able to locate or rescue Arad.
Hundreds of Israelis gathered at the airfields to express their hopes for Arad’s safety and return to Israel in the near future.