Monday, September 7, 2009

MIA Redemption

In the wake of talk of releasing Gilad Schalit and the cautious optimism that he may be home soon, I came across a story I had never heard before.

The story is about an Israeli soldier named Guy Hever who in 1997 vanished from his base in the Golan Heights without a trace. A true mystery, not a sign of him was found, except for the dog tags of a Syrian soldier, now in the possession of his family.

One hypothesis put forward was that Guy left his base after fighting with his officer and fell or jumped off a cliff in the Golan. The area has been thoroughly searched, however, and not a trace has been found.

In 2007, a Syrian group claimed to be holding Guy, and wanted to exchange him. Apparently, upon further investigation, this claim was found to have no merit.

Israel has recently ramped up diplomatic efforts to find Guy and an organization in Israel has offered $US10 million for any information relating to his whereabouts or to the whereabouts of any of the other missing Israeli soldiers.

When a soldier is listed as missing in combat, sometimes it's because they have literally been vaporized, but a bomb, a shell or some other weapon and that nothing remains of them. This is different, because Guy was not in combat when he went missing. It is very possible that the soldier died in an accident, commit suicide or was even prey to domestic crime in Israel, though these scenarios seem unlikely given the thorough searches that have taken place.

It's possible that the soldier went AWOL and is maybe hiding somewhere now, but again, unlikely that he would not have contacted his family and that nobody would have recognized him.

Maybe he is in Syria then. What's difficult to explain is why would Syria hold him, and not admit he's being held? What is there to gain from this? Why wouldn't they say clearly that the have this soldier in their custody? This is part of the mystery. One answer may be that they're waiting for the time to be right. Perhaps they are waiting until negotiations between Israel and Syria have reached an impasse and then the allure of redeeming Guy Hever will be presented to Israel to break an impasse in Syria's favour. It's hard to know.

In all cases, while it must be difficult to know that a loved one is a prisoner, or in a POW camp, or even killed, it must be infinitely harder for a family to not have any idea at all.

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