Israeli Intelligence members said on Monday they were disturbed after hearing that the Iranian official considered to be the last one involved with the Ron Arad mysterious disappearance has died last week after contracting coronavirus.
Israeli Air Force Navigator Ron Arad was taken captive in Lebanon in 1986 after a bombing mission over southern Lebanon.
The Iranian man who had information about his disappearance is Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, a senior intelligence official, who is considered one of the few individuals alive who knew about Ron Arad's issue.
Islam served as an adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif, and in the 1990s he served as Deputy Foreign Minister.
The Israeli Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said on Monday that security officials believe there were very clear signs that Syrians, under UN pressures, had exerted efforts in Damascus and Beirut to find Ron Arad following his disappearance.
However, in the autumn of 1989, Syrians suddenly halted those efforts.
“It is most likely that Islam had asked the Syrians at that time to abandon searching for Arad,” the newspaper said.
It wrote that then Iranian President Ali Rafsanjani had asked Islam, who was ambassador to Damascus, to follow up on the issue. However, Islam responded that the Arad was not present anymore in the place where he was first taken.
An intelligence source who spent many years investigating in the Arad case said recently in a conversation with Yedioth Ahronoth: “If this was a police investigation, the first person I would invite is Sheikh al-Islam."
Last December, 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 transferred to Iran.
The official said 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.