JERUSALEM (Jul. 30)
Israeli security officials, aided by information from the Palestinian Authority, have found what they believe are the remains of an Israeli soldier kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists in 1989.
Based on information provided by Palestinian security services, Israeli workers Monday ripped up part of a major road near Palmahim, located along the Israeli coast.
“We have found bones in this area which strongly indicate they are the remains of Ilan Sa’adon,” said Maj. Gen. Gideon Sheffer, the head of the Israel Defense Force manpower division.
He said information provided by the Palestinians was instrumental in “putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”
During a meeting last week with Foreign Minister David Levy, Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat promised to supply Israel with information about Sa’adon.
The information was intended to bolster confidence among Israelis that the Palestinians could be trusted as peace partners.
Ya’acov Perry, a former head of Israel’s domestic intelligence service who is closely involved in efforts to locate missing Israeli soldiers, stressed that no deal had been made in exchange for the information.
He refuted Palestinian claims that in exchange for the information, Israel had agreed to release Sheik Ahmed Yassin, a founder of Hamas who was jailed for life in 1989 for ordering the deaths of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.
“In all of the intelligence and political contacts, there was no discussion of any kind of exchange,” Perry said.
“Palestinian security forces gave us precise information on the location of the body,” he said, but added, “I want to stress that we do not yet have a positive identification of the body.
“But the intelligence information which pointed us there indicated that it is extremely likely that this is the body of Ilan Sa’adon.”
Sa’adon was kidnapped in May 1989 while hitchhiking from his base near Jerusalem to his home in Ashkelon.
He was last seen alive by a fellow hitchhiker when he caught a ride with two men in a Subaru who were wearing skullcaps.
Sa’adon did not return to base the next day. His family had not expected him home, so he was only reported missing two days later, when the army sent someone to Sa’adon’s home to find out why he had not shown up.
The Hamas leaders who ordered the kidnapping were later apprehended. They told investigators that they shot Sa’adon in the car and then dumped his body in an unknown place and fled the country.
In recent years, Yassin called on those with information of Sa’adon’s whereabouts to come forward. But it was widely reported that only the two terrorists knew where the body was.
Dr. Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab adviser to Arafat, said Monday that during the past three months, a Palestinian security official had traveled to a number of Arab countries, tracked down the two terrorists who had killed Sa’adon and learned where they had buried him.
Earlier this month, the bodies of missing Israeli soldiers Yosef Fink and Rachamim Alsheikh, killed in Lebanon in 1986, were returned to Israel as part of a prisoner and body exchange with Hezbollah that had been mediated by Germany.