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(photo credit: Channel 10)
Israel's working assumption is that IAF navigator Ron Arad is alive, the Prime Minister's Office said on Sunday, in response to media reports that Arad allegedly died in the mid-1990s.
Until proven otherwise, we will consider him to be alive, and "we are working to return him home," the PMO said in response to a Yediot Aharonot article citing a classified report compiled by the IDF Intelligence Corps that claims Arad was still alive in 1995 and died in Lebanon in the mid-'90s.
According to the report, Lt.-Col. Arad, who disappeared after his plane was downed over Lebanon in 1986, was transferred to Iran, where he was held in a secret Revolutionary Guard facility in Teheran for several years.
In 1994, the IDF captured Hizbullah commander Mustafa Dirani, one of the men who had held Arad captive in Lebanon. The Iranians, fearing that Dirani would expose them, sent Arad back to Lebanon, where he reportedly died of an illness, the IDF report stated.
Arad's family said that as far as they were concerned, Ron was still alive. "Even if the article is accurate and Ron is not alive, we are committed to bringing him home," Arad family lawyer Eliad Shraga said.