Hasan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese based Hezbollah party said on Wednesday at night that he believes that the Israeli Navigator Ron Arad, who has been missing since 1986 after his plan was shot down over Lebanon, was probably dead and his remains lost.
In a televised interview with the Lebanese NTV channel, Nasrallah said that if the party had any information about Ron Arad "it would have made a new deal for prisoners swap".
He added that he believes that Arad is "dead and lost", but this information is not based on touchable facts.
"No one knew him, I would say he is dead and lost", Nasrallah said, "His remains could have disappeared".
Although this information does not provide any new information on Arad’s case, yet it is the first time that the party says it does not have the remains of Arad, or concrete information on his location since the party refused to comment on Arad’s fate.
Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad landed on Lebanese soil after ejecting from his plane which was downed during a bombing raid over Lebanon in 1986.
Israeli online daily Haaretz reported that Eliad Shraga, the lawyer for Arad’s family, said that Nasrallah does not have relevant information about Arad.
"Nasrallah is the master of manipulation", Shraga said, "When it was convenient for him he said Arad was alive, and now he says he does not know his whereabouts".
Also, Nasrallah added that one of the hypotheses on Arad’s case is that he had escaped his captors in Lebanon, or even that he could have fallen off a cliff and died without anyone’s knowledge.
No organization would hold on to Arad for such a long time without making any political or financial demands, the Hezbollah leader added.
In 2004, Israel and Hezbollah carried a prisoner-swap deal which was mediated by Germany; hundreds of Arab prisoners were freed for the release of Elhanan Tennenbaum, a Jewish businessman, and the remains of four Israeli soldiers killed in October 2000.
According to Haaretz, a second stage of talks is believed to have focused on Arad and on four Iranian diplomats who disappeared in Lebanon in 1982, the year Israel invaded the country.
Hezbollah is trying to secure the release of Sameer Quntar, who is serving a 542-year prison sentence after an Israeli court convicted him of killing four Israelis in 1979.