Ron Arad, the Israel Air Force navigator who went missing in 1986 after his plane crashed in Lebanon, was tortured to death by his captors just two years later, according to a report in Lebanese media.
Arad's disappearance has long haunted Israel, as his precise fate was never uncovered. It is known that he ejected from his plane along with pilot Yishai Aviram while flying a mission over south Lebanon, but while Aviram was rescued Arad was taken captive.
Israel believed he was captured by the Shia Islamist Amal movement, and after some time in their captivity was handed over to Iran.
However, according to the Lebanon's Daily Star, a former member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party – a neo-Nazi Syrian militia – recently told a Lebanese tribunal that his men had captured Arad.
Muafeed Kuntar – who made his claims while on trial over charges he had spied for Israel's Mossad secret service along with four others – said he was a commander of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party at the time, and that his men informed him in 1988 that they had received a captive.
He told the trial that he was unaware of the identity of the captive at that point, but had ordered his men to clean him up and interrogate him.
It was under their "interrogation" that Arad died, he claimed.
"One day I got a telephone call and they told me that a group of guys were holding someone," he told a military court in Beirut. He added that the group had attempted to interrogate the man to ascertain his identity but were unsuccessful.
"He knew many languages," Kunter reportedly said. "When they spoke to him in Hebrew he answered in French, when they questioned him in French he answered in Spanish, when they talked to him in English he answered in French."
Kuntar claimed that Arad was dressed in overalls at the time he was handed to him, and was in a bad state, unable to stand by himself.
Two days later he said one of his men phoned him to tell him the captive had died.
"They told me that he had entered the bathroom and stayed there for a long time," he said. "When they went to check on him they found him dead."
Remarkably, he claimed that it was not until 1998 – when pictures of the Israeli airman were published – that he and his men realized Arad's true identity. He said they attempted to find the spot they had buried their captive, but were unsuccessful.
"Of course he passed away due to exhaustion and of course he was subject to beatings and torture as that is how interrogations happen."
The paper also reported that another of the men on trial had attempted to hand over information on Arad's remains to then-President of Lebanon Emile Lahoud.
At that point the judge ordered the trial to halt and continue behind closed doors, out of respect for the now-deceased Lahoud's memory.
Israeli officially declared Arad's death in 2008.