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Israel: Mossad hunted for missing pilot in Syria and Lebanon, says report

Mossad reportedly kidnapped Iranian officer for questioning and took DNA from a body buried in a Lebanese village
A huge billboard in Cypriot port city of Larnaca offering $10m to anyone who has information leading to the whereabouts of Israeli military pilot Ron Arad, 5 December 2005 (AFP)

Israel's external espionage arm, the Mossad, carried out two operations in Lebanon and Syria in an effort by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government to locate the remains of Israeli pilot Ron Arad, according to reports.

Israel has been searching for Arad's whereabouts after his plane was shot down in Lebanon in 1986 during a military operation. After bailing out of the plane, the pilot was rescued by Israeli forces but Arad was captured by Amal, the Lebanese Shia Muslim movement, and was presumed dead. 

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the Knesset that the Mossad had carried out an operation to obtain new information about Ron Arad, saying it was a "complex, wide-ranging and bold operation" to understand what happened.

Al Arabiya quoted unnamed sources as saying that the Mossad ran a mission last month in Nabi Sheet, a Lebanese village in the Bekaa, and another inside Syria, to find traces of the lost pilot.

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DNA was allegedly taken from a body buried in the Lebanese village "to examine the possibility that it was Arad's remains", Al Arabiya reported.

Al Arabiya reported that the Mossad's operation in Syria involved the kidnapping of a retired Iranian officer who was interrogated about the whereabouts of Arad's remains before being released.

On Monday, the London-based website Rai al-Youm reported that the Mossad took the kidnapped Iranian officer to an unnamed country in Africa for interrogation before releasing him.

Israel's Haaretz cited sources in Bennett's office saying that Monday's speech had been coordinated with the Mossad to issue a message that "the operation was successful and important".