Israel ex-PM says airman missing since 80s killed in Lebanon
Olmert made the comments in an interview with a local radio station.
Current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced earlier this week that Israeli Mossad intelligence agents carried out a "wide-ranging and bold" operation last month to try to uncover Ron Arad’s fate.
Arad, an air force navigator, bailed out of a warplane that went down over Lebanon during a 1986 bombing mission. Initially taken prisoner by Lebanese Amal guerrillas, he is widely assumed to no longer be alive. The aircraft's pilot was rescued.
According to a previous report by the Israeli Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the Jewish state had tried to conclude a deal over the years with different parties in exchange for any information on Arad’s fate.
This reportedly included mediated negotiations with Israel’s bitter rival Hezbollah, which led to Israel receiving Arad’s personal rifle in 2000. In 2008, it received two photos of Arad and his diary of his first two years in captivity.
Five years ago, Israel published reports for the first time about Arad’s attempted escape in 1998 from his detention centre in the Baalbek village of Nabi Sheet in eastern Lebanon.
It said Hezbollah dug graves at the site and sent to Israel the remains of one of the bodies that were found, however DNA tests showed that those remains did not belong to Arad.