The Mossad has brought an end to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of eight Iranian Jews in the 1990s, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Thursday, saying they had been murdered.
The families of eight out of 11 Iranian Jews who went missing two decades ago received notifications from the Glilot-based Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center independent research group that their relatives had been slain while trying to immigrate to Israel.
The families of the eight, who were not named, had pressed the government to seek information about their fate as part of its past prisoner exchanges with Hezbollah and Hamas.
In a statement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office said that the Mossad had investigated and “received from a reliable source, privy to the details, information that these Jews were captured and murdered while escaping [Iran].” The statement did not elaborate on who might have carried out the killings.
Netanyahu said he had ordered the Mossad to extend the investigation into the disappearance of the 11 Iranian Jews.
The task was delegated to David Meidan, the man who acted as the prime minister’s personal representative in the negotiations to free Gilad Schalit from captivity in the Gaza Strip.
Following the release of the IDF tank gunner in October 2011, Meidan was appointed the coordinator for issues relating to missing soldiers and prisoners of war.
He left the Mossad two years ago, after 35 years in the agency, but agreed to continue dealing with prisoners of war and missing persons’ issues, as well as “any other public issue,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office statement issued at the time of his retirement.
“This is an issue that occupied the intelligence agencies for over 20 years, and we can say that today the mystery comes to an end,” Meidan said.
“First and foremost this was a great intelligence achievement that managed to obtain a reliable source in a difficult part of the world that provided reliable information and submitted pictures relating to the fate of eight of 11 missing persons. Today we informed the families that their ordeal is over,” he said.
Eleven Jews in four groups, three groups (totaling eight people) in 1994 and one (of three people) in 1997, tried to escape from Iran and cross the border into neighboring countries. While making the attempt, all 11 disappeared. Their fate has remained unknown ever since.
The official information regarding the eight murdered Jews was passed on to the then chief rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar, before he left the post last summer. Amar concluded that the evidence was sufficient to declare them deceased, by Jewish law, permitting their families to finally mourn them.
Netanyahu said: “I send my condolences to the families and hope they find comfort in the information received. We will continue to do everything which is necessary in order to obtain all the possible information on those who we have lost.”
The investigation into the fate of the remaining three Iranian Jews, who disappeared in 1997, remains ongoing. The three men who are still unaccounted for are Nouralla Rabizade and brothers, Syrous and Ibrahim Ghahremani.
A report by The New York Times in 2000 speculated that the three men had been detained by Iranian security forces while attempting to flee the country through the city of Zahedan on the border with Pakistan, a known route for drug trafficking.
The report cited Israeli officials and Iranian Jewish leaders saying that they believed at least some of the three men were alive and in prison, where sightings by other prisoners had allegedly been reported.
Reuters contributed to this report.