On the anniversary of the February 2008 death of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, Lebanese media outlets affiliated with the Shiite organization revealed new details about the slain terrorist.
According to Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, before his assassination in 2008, Mughniyeh had dedicated many of his efforts to finding out information about missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad, for the purpose of trading this information with Israel in exchange for prisoners.
Arad was an Israeli Air Force navigator who has been classified as “missing in action” since October 1986. Arad was lost on a mission over Lebanon and captured by Shiite group Amal. He was later handed over to Hezbollah and may have been handed over again to Iran. His fate is still unknown, but he is widely presumed to be dead.
According to the Al-Akhbar report, a team under Mughniyeh’s command had found items belonging to Arad, including his parachute.
“The topic of the Israeli navigator Ron Arad attracted a lot of his [Mughniyeh’s] attention,” the paper said. “He realized that this posed an opportunity to secure the release of prisoners, so he established a designated task force to search for Arad and pursue his trail between the years 2004 and 2006. He managed to find some of his equipment, like a parachute, a weapon and clothing. Simple items that the ‘resistance’ used as bargaining chips. The price demanded by the Hajj [Mughniyeh’s nickname] was entirely humanitarian.”
It was reported further that Mughniyeh had been in the midst of preparing a prisoner exchange agreement with Israel. According to the paper, the team had prepared for the anticipated agreement for several years, but after the 2006 Second Lebanon War it became impossible to facilitate a deal and the matter was all but dropped.
Mughniyeh, whose assassination has been blamed on Israel, is believed to have been behind the attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1992 and 1994.
For years, Hezbollah has threatened to retaliate against Israel for Mughniyeh’s death.
Hezbollah was set to commemorate the anniversary of Mughniyeh’s death on Tuesday. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was scheduled to give an address at the event.