Was tortured Arad buried in a forest?

By Nathan Jeffay, February 26, 2016
A Palestinian woman walking past a Hamas mural of Ron Arad in Gaza

A Palestinian woman walking past a Hamas mural of Ron Arad in Gaza

Ron Arad was tortured to death two years after his capture, a defendant in a Lebanese court case has claimed.

The Israeli Air Force navigator was captured by militants in 1986, after ejecting from his plane over Lebanon.

Intense efforts began to locate him, free him and, later, when he was widely presumed dead, to find information about his death and locate his body.

A man currently on trial in Lebanon has now said that he was part of the group that held him, and that Lt Col Arad died near Beirut in 1988, according to the Beirut-based Daily Star.

Moufeed K - known to refer to Moufeed Kuntar - was a soldier in the Syrian Social National Party at the time and said in court that he saw Lt Col Arad before he died, the newspaper reported.

The airman was being interrogated by his organisation, was "subject to beatings and torture", and was found dead in a bathroom and buried in a forest near Mount Lebanon, Kuntar reportedly said.

A mystery solved, or misinformation? On the surface, Kuntar appears to have detailed knowledge of the case, he was speaking under oath, and his story of how Lt Col Arad died is entirely plausible. However, there are factors that suggest his comments should be treated with caution.

Firstly, there has been much conflicting information in relation to Ron Arad. Secondly, this is coming from Kuntar, a man who is on trial for collaborating with Israel, and there may be all sorts of strategic motivations for him to appear authoritative on the case.

Indeed, he is accused of being part of a group that passed information about Lt Col Arad to Israel, and if he can convince the court that he paid false information while in possession of the truth, it could work to his advantage.

Beyond this, while his account of how Lt Col Arad actually died is plausible, it is odd that he reportedly claimed not to have known the identity of the prisoner until 10 years after he died, saying it was only in 1998 that he heard of interest in Lt Col Arad and had the body dug up to check if it was his.

It is difficult to imagine that he handled such a prize prisoner and was oblivious for a decade.

Last updated: 3:23pm, February 26 2016