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Missing Druse Soldier Was Army Translator With AM-Hostages-Israel

September 12, 1991

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Sgt. Samir Assad, whose body is being returned to Israel in the latest Middle East hostage move, was an army translator kidnapped in Lebanon in 1983 and held by Syrian-backed Palestinian guerrillas.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine said he was killed in an Israeli air raid on Rabbit Island near the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli in June 1984. The Israeli army disputes the account, but has never given its version of events.

Assad was 22 when he disappeared near the southern Lebanese port of Sidon.

His brother, Yussuf, said the family was devastated when the army informed the family that their son was definitely dead. His body was being returned to Israel on Thursday.

″Mother took it very badly. Despite everything, she lived in hope that one day she would see Samir back and alive, and all the hopes and expectations she developed over the years have suddenly collapsed,″ Assad said at the family home in the Galilee village of Beit Jann.

The mother, Afifa, 60, has worn black since her son was declared missing in action six months after his disappearance.

A huge picture of Samir hangs on the living room wall of the home. Assad and the rest of the villagers are all Druse, members of an offshoot sect of Islam.

Samir Assad disappeared after he passed through the Rosh Hanikra border crossing en route to his unit in Lebanon.

Newspapers said he was a translator in the prosecutor’s office of the Israeli military government, set up in Sidon after the Israeli army invaded its northern neighbor in 1982.

All his brothers also served in the army, the newspaper Yedioth said.

There were two communications from Assad in captivity.

In 1984, the democratic front released a videotape of Assad, army officials said. In May 1984, the family received a letter saying he had received books and letters sent by the family, Yedioth said.

But on June 28, 1984, democratic front leader Nayef Hawatmeh announced Assad was killed in the Israeli air raid.

In 1986, Hawatmeh offered to return Assad’s body in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. The Red Cross examined the body and information was passed to pathologists in Israel, Yedioth said. It said, however, that the Israelis were unable to say for sure the body was Assad’s.

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