German mediator says Arad dead


The German mediator who brokered the prisoner-exchange deal between Israel and Hezbollah has told Israel that missing air force navigator Ron Arad is dead.

Arad was captured in 1986 and killed two years later, according to Gerhard Conrad. The information about Arad was the first step toward an exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Conrad transferred the information to Israel through contacts with the Hezbollah militia, according to a report Monday from the German Press Agency. The agency said that an Israeli government spokesperson would not confirm the news.

The next step could be the agreed-upon exchange of Israeli prisoners or their remains – including kidnapped Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, for five Lebanese prisoners and the remains of Hezbollah militia.

In addition, Israel is reportedly planning to give Hezbollah information about four Iranian diplomats who were captured by Christian Phalangists in the 1982 Lebanon War, in return for the information about Arad. The four Iranians were presumed killed.

Once the remains of the Israeli soldiers are identified, Israeli President Shimon Peres is scheduled to approve the release of Samir Kuntar and four other Lebanese prisoners. Kuntar was responsible for the death of four Israelis, including two girls ages two and four, in a terror attack in 1979. He was sentenced to four life terms, and is the longest-serving Arab prisoner in Israel.

Reports from Israel say that Israeli mediator Ofer Dekel will come to Berlin within days to sign documents for the exchange. Conrad is to meet separately with Hezbollah representatives to get their signature.

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