Hizbullah to give Dekel Arad report

Transfer of report marks first phase of prisoner swap deal; IDF prepares to exhume terrorists' bodies.

cemetery enemy bodies (photo credit: Channel 1)
cemetery enemy bodies
(photo credit: Channel 1)
Israeli negotiator Ofer Dekel traveled to Europe on Monday to pick up a report compiled by Hizbullah detailing their investigation into the fate of missing IAF navigator Ron Arad. The transfer of the dossier was considered part of a prisoner swap deal between Israel and the guerrilla group, defense officials said. Dekel is to receive the report from a UN-appointed German official who mediated the deal. It is supposed to offer an insight into what happened to Arad after his plane crashed in Lebanon in 1986. Arad was captured alive by Shi'ite guerrillas, and changed hands several times before disappearing without a trace two decades ago. His whereabouts and fate remain unknown. In exchange for the report on Arad, Israel is to provide information on four Iranian diplomats who disappeared in Lebanon in 1982. Iran claims they were kidnapped by Lebanese militiamen allied with Israel, who delivered them to IDF troops. Israel has long denied holding them, and Samir Geagea, former head of the disbanded Lebanese Forces, has said the militiamen killed them. Meanwhile, in a sign that the IDF is gearing up to conduct the swap, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot declared a cemetery near Safed where bodies of enemy fighters are buried, a closed military zone on Sunday afternoon. Eizenkot is the IDF officer in charge of implementing the prisoner swap for abducted IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, which officials said would likely take place at the Rosh Hanikra border crossing in the North. Government officials said that details regarding the swap still needed to be finalized by Dekel, and that it was unlikely the exchange would take place this week. IDF sources said that soldiers have begun clearing weeds and bushes that have grown over the graves in the cemetery near Safed. The bodies of several dozen Lebanese and Palestinian guerrillas will be returned to Lebanon under the deal, which was approved last Sunday by the cabinet. On Friday, members of the IDF Rabbinate received emergency call-up orders. These reservists will participate in exhuming the bodies from the cemetery, although IDF sources stressed that such orders have yet to be issued. Under the deal, Goldwasser and Regev, both believed to be dead, will be exchanged for Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, several Hizbullah guerrillas caught during the Second Lebanon War, as well as the release of an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners. While government officials in Jerusalem said the swap would take place next week, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported Sunday that the first stage of the prisoner swap would indeed begin on Thursday, citing "informed Palestinian sources." According to the news agency, the first stage would include the release of Kuntar and three other detainees. Regev and Goldwasser would also presumably be released during this stage. The news agency further reported that one of the Palestinian bodies slated to be returned under the second phase of the deal would be that of Dalal Mughrabi, a female terrorist who took part in the killing of 36 Israelis and one US citizen in 1978. According to the report, Mughrabi's remains would be received "in a large official ceremony" organized by Fatah which would "showcase the pride that people feel for Mughrabi and her fellows for their heroic resistance against the Israeli occupation." Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to the report.