Dubai: The death of Iranian politician and diplomat Hussain Sheikh Al Islam has squashed Israel’s hopes of uncovering the mysterious disappearance of its air force pilot Ron Arad, whose plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986, according to Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat.
Sheikh Al Islam, who served as an adviser to the Iranian foreign minister, died earlier this month after being affected with the novel coronavirus, which has so far claimed hundreds of lives in the country.
The former Iranian ambassador to Syria was believed to be one of the few individuals alive who knew about Ron Arad’s fate, and is also considered to be the last one involved with his disappearance.
Sheikh Al Islam was one of the students who stormed into the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution, and was later a senior intelligence officer. He was the Iranian envoy to Syria when Arad was taken captive in Lebanon after his plane was shot down.
Arad was on a mission to attack Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) targets near Sidon, which was and still is a stronghold of Shiite group Amal. Arad was captured by Amal and later was handed over to Hezbollah. The Israeli Intelligence services were disappointed after hearing that Sheikh Al Islam, on whom they we putting much hope to uncover the story behind Arad’s mysterious disappearance, has died.
Sheikh Al Islam also served as deputy Foreign Minister in the 1990s. Israeli security officials believe that there were very clear signs that the Syrians, under UN pressure, had exerted efforts in Damascus and Beirut to find Arad right after his disappearance. However, in late 1989, the Syrians suddenly ceased their efforts.
In 1987, three letters in Arad’s handwriting and two photos of a bearded Arad were received, proving he was alive. The Israeli regime negotiated for his release, but talks failed in 1988. Since then, credible information about Arad’s fate has been hard to obtain, though unsubstantiated claims of new information are made regularly.
In its efforts to gain information about his whereabouts, Israeli commandos captured Hezbollah members Abdul Karim Obeid in 1989, and Mustafa Dirani in 1994. During his interrogation by Israeli officers, Dirani reportedly disclosed that Arad was turned over first to a Hezbollah unit and then to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on May 4, 1988, after which he may have been taken to Iran. But neither Iran nor any other groups offered useful information about Arad’s fate. Karim-Obeid and Dirani were released in 2004 as part of a prisoner swap. No information on Arad’s fate was released after the prisoner swap.
Based on such information, Israeli intelligence members said Sheikh Al Islam may have taken the secret of Arad’s mysterious disappearance to his grave.
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