Captured Israeli airman Ron Arad escaped but died trying to reach Israel in 1988, Hezbollah said.
Arad escaped his holding cell two years after being seized in Lebanon in 1986, the terrorist group said in a report published Wednesday by Israel’s daily Ma’ariv.
The Israeli newspaper cited a secret report on Arad’s fate provided to Israel by Hezbollah as part of a prisoner exchange in July mediated by the United Nations. Israel, which officially assumes Arad to be alive, dismissed the Hezbollah report as “absolutely unsatisfactory.”
Arad was captured after bailing out of his crippled warplane over Lebanon. Ma’ariv quoted the Hezbollah report as saying that Arad was held in Beirut before being moved to the eastern village of Nabi Cheit.
“The Israeli pilot escaped from his holding cell on the night between May 4-5, 1988 and headed south, toward what was then the occupied [Israeli] security zone” in south Lebanon, the Hezbollah report said, according to Ma’ariv.
“He was in a remote, mountainous and barren area where people rarely set foot. It is possible that he collapsed and, because of natural factors, could not keep going, or that he was injured, suffered fractures, hemorrhaging, fever, poisoning, thirst, a fall from a high cliff, or that he even fell victim to a predatory animal or walked into a minefield.”
Israeli allegations that Hezbollah or Iran, its main patron, was holding Arad were rejected. Hezbollah has refused to comment on the Arad report.