A senior officer in the Military Intelligence Division of the Israeli army revealed that - contrary to information previously published in Israel - Israeli co-pilot Ron Arad who was captured by the Lebanese Amal movement in 1986, had died on Lebanese soil and was not transported to Iran.
He added that Iranian envoys killed him because they believed that Israel was behind the assassination of four Iranian diplomats by a Lebanese group led by Elie Hobeika - a former security official in the Lebanese Forces.
On Friday, the investigative journalist for security affairs in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and the US New York Times, Ronen Bergman, revealed new information about the case.
He said that officer Rubin, who is considered the first and most important expert on Arad’s file, discovered during his investigations that although the co-pilot was ill, the Iranians killed him because they believed Hobeika would not have acted without Israel’s approval in a major case such as that of the four Iranian diplomats, who disappeared after being kidnapped during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
According to Rubin’s account, the forces of Robert Hatem, the chief of guards of the Lebanese Forces, headed by Hobeika, arrested the Iranians at a military checkpoint and transferred them to the Quarantine area in Eastern Beirut, where they were liquidated.
Bergman says that he managed to conduct a research press interview several years ago with Hatem, who admitted that before their assassination, the four diplomats had been subjected to “hellish” torture, in which “many methods” had been used.
After their killing, he added, their bodies were dumped into wells containing materials “that also eat flesh and bones.”
Bergman says that the official Israeli account, to date, describes Arad as “missing”. According to this account, Arad fell as a prisoner at the hands of Amal movement, which held him in a house in the Lebanese village of Nabi Shiit. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards then took Arad to Iran, where he was held for several years, then returned to Lebanon.
Rubin told Bergman that Israel had made a mistake, adding that Arad never left Lebanon.
He said that Arad’s disappearance was closely connected with the killing of the four Iranian diplomats.
“My conclusion is that Arad died in the fall of 1989. It appears to be a revenge for the killing of the Iranians,” he told Bergman.
As for Hatem, he told Bergman, that a month after Hobeika’s forces killed the four Iranians, Iranian investigators and members of the family of Mousavi, one of the diplomats, began arriving in Lebanon. Hobeika issued an order to clean the wells with the bodies inside, and transfer them to an area known as Wadi al-Jamajem (the valley of skulls).
The Iranians were unable to know the fate of the four diplomats. They suspected that the answer was not in Lebanon but in Israel, following reports published at the time that the Lebanese Forces militia was kidnapping Lebanese and Palestinians and transferring them to underground investigation facilities in Israel.
Israel denied at the time that it was holding the four diplomats. But the Iranians insisted that those were in Israeli prisons.
On the other hand, Israel had at that time kidnapped Mustafa Al-Dirani and Sheikh Abdul-Karim Obeid from their homes in Lebanon, and Dirani was subjected to severe torture in an Israeli attempt to know the location or fate of Arad.
During his interrogation in Israel, Dirani said that on May 4, 1988, while Arad was held in a house in Nabi Shiit, the Israeli army carried out an operation in the neighboring village of Maidoun.
As a result, guards believed that the Israeli operation was an invasion by the Israeli commando against them, and they fled the house and kept Arad alone. When they returned, Arad had disappeared, according to Dirani.
After that, the Israeli intelligence put forward a theory that Dirani handed over Arad to Iranian authorities in Lebanon. Rubin considered that the goal of the Iranians was to start negotiations with Israel to bring back the four diplomats.
Bergman wrote that it was not yet clear whether the Iranians had taken Arad on the day of the Israeli military operation in Maidoun, or whether they were surveying the house and kidnapped Arad before that. According to Rubin, there is evidence that the Iranian authorities, who took Arad, were linked to the family of diplomat Mousavi.