JERUSALEM, April 20 (JTA) — Senior Israeli army and defense officials have categorically denied rumors circulating in Israel that Israeli commandos rescued missing airman Ron Arad. Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said he had no idea of the source of the rumors. But he denied this week that any rescue attempt had been made or that there had been any developments in the ongoing efforts to obtain information about Arad. Members of the Arad family would not comment on the rumors. Arad bailed out from his fighter plane over Lebanon in 1986. The last time any message was received that he was alive was in October 1987. Israeli officials have maintained that Iran is holding him. Iran has denied any knowledge of his whereabouts. According to media reports, Israeli and foreign military reporters during the past two weeks received anonymous messages on their beepers regarding an Israeli commando raid to rescue Arad. There were varying versions to the rumors. According to one, an operation in Lebanon had left two Israeli commandos dead. According to another, three commandos had died during a raid in Iran. The spokesman for the Israel Defense Force also received a report of a nurse from a Safed hospital who claimed Arad was being treated there. In light of the flurry of phone calls from journalists and senior IDF officers requesting more information, the IDF decided this week to issue a clear denial of the rumors.
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