The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement Wednesday saying it was checking out the "reliability of information published on the Internet" that a little-known Syrian organization claims to be holding missing IDF soldier Guy Hever.
The Prime Minister's Office, in an unusual statement, said that "for years, the State of Israel, the IDF and the security establishment have made every effort and considered every possibility in order to discover his fate and bring him back home. The reliability of the information that was published on the Internet last night is being checked, as is the identity of those responsible for it. The checks have yet to be completed."
Hever has been missing since August 17, 1997, and was last seen at his Golan Heights base.
On Tuesday evening, an organization called "The Resistance Committees for the Release of the Golan Heights" published an announcement that read, "Don't think millions of your dollars will return the soldier who went missing in the Golan. You know very well how to get him back."
The group reportedly demanded the release of nine Syrian prisoners who are currently in Israeli jails in exchange for the missing soldier.
Col. (res.) Shimon Mizrahi, who has been the Hever family attorney for years, said on Army Radio Wednesday morning that the existence of this organization has been known for some eight months, since June 2006.
"There is a proven fact, and now we need to start to act," he said, urging the government to check the new information without hesitation in order to track Hever down.
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that it was checking the new information with various sources, although she would not identify them. Army officials said the IDF was also investigating the latest claim, although this was not the first time that an organization claimed to have Hever in captivity.
Following the release of the report, Hever's mother, Rina, said that it confirmed her absolute certainty that her son was and always has been held by the Syrians.
"I always said that [Syria] is where he is, and no one listened to me," she told Army Radio, urging the government to work to free her son.
"This is a clear message to [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert to start to act," she said. "I don't expect Guy to come back tomorrow, but we have to remember that the Syrians are the ones who can free him. Negotiations for his release will ultimately go through them and not through any organization."
In 2002, the Red Cross facilitated the release of an Israeli Arab who was held by a Palestinian terrorist group in one of its bases in Syria for 14 years.
One of the man's family members told The Jerusalem Post
Wednesday that the family had thought that the man was dead. According to the family, he entered Syria in 1988 and was there for three months before being picked up and held in a hole until his unexpected release.
The man's family said it was inconceivable that Damascus, which allows terrorist bases to operate from its territory, did not know that he was being held. The Syrians, however, denied all involvement.
When the man returned to Israel he was questioned by Israeli security officials about whether he saw Hever, or perhaps even missing Israeli airman Ron Arad. He said that he did not see them, that he was held alone, but that he heard voices in a hole next to him. He said he did not know who the voices belonged to, or whether they were Jews or Arabs.
Another Israeli Arab who disappeared for a number of years in Syria was returned in 2003. This man was from Abu Ghosh.
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