JERUSALEM (JTA) — A secret military intelligence committee determined that missing Israeli airman Ron Arad died in Lebanon in the mid-1990s, an Israeli newspaper reported.
Yediot Achronot reported that the committee’s classified report said Arad was probably alive for about nine years after his plane crashed over Lebanon in 1986.
In response to the report, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Sunday that Israel continues to search for Arad and "until we have conclusive evidence to the contrary, the assumption is that Ron Arad is alive."
Arad was captured by Lebanese terrorists and turned over to Iran. The last proof given to Israel that Arad was alive was in May 1988.
According to the report, Arad is believed to have died from an unknown illness after he returned from Iran to Lebanon, where he was held at a Revolutionary Guards facility. His gravesite has not been located, the report said.
The Israel Defense Forces tried to have Arad declared dead in 2005, but security services wanted DNA evidence for such a declaration. Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also did not accept the report’s conclusions, according to Ynet.