Claims raised by an Australian news report that the late Mossad member Ben
Zygier was arrested for interfering in a secret operation to recover the bodies
of soldiers killed in the 1982 Lebanon war are “science fiction,” a former
senior Mossad member told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
hanged himself in a high-security jail cell in December 2010.
state television said Zygier unwittingly sabotaged a secret 2007 Mossad mission
to exhume the bodies of three Israeli tank crewmen captured and killed in a
battle with Syrian forces, and disclosed the identity of an alleged Lebanese
agent while making an unauthorized attempt to recruit a man he thought was a
The agent was tasked, according to an Australian
Broadcasting Corporation report, with digging up the bodies of three fallen IDF
soldiers killed in the 1982 Sultan Yacoub battle.
Rami Igra, who headed
the Mossad’s MIA and Captive Persons Division, said the soldiers had been
declared dead by the Military Rabbinate, and that it was wrong to believe that
Mossad would launch an operation to retrieve the bodies.
would not declare them dead unless it had undeniable evidence. The claim that an
operation would be launched to retrieve [the bodies] is not only empty, it is
science fiction,” Igra said.
“Zygier was facing 22 years in prison – that
kind of charge is for treachery, not an imaginary operation,” Igra
said. “These claims are nonsense.”
Siad al-Homsi, former mayor of
a Lebanese village, told ABC television that he had been approached by the
Mossad in 2007 and flown to China on the pretext of attending a mayoral
He said he was introduced to a Syrian man who said his
brother in Europe was working to return the bodies of the three Israelis captured during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in the Bekaa Valley –
Israeli-US citizen Zachary Baumel and his fellow Israeli crewmen Yehuda Katz and
Homsi told ABC that he suspected he had been ensnared in a
Mossad operation. He was eventually told by others involved that the missing men
were buried in Lebanon.
“At the last meeting they informed me about the
location of the corpses exactly. I had to find a way to get the bodies and keep
them,” Homsi said, though he was given no details on how the remains would be
turned over to a separate Mossad team.
The mission failed, Homsi said,
after he was arrested on May 16, 2009 by Lebanese special forces and later
sentenced to 15 years for spying for Mossad. He served three
Zygier’s alleged crime was inadvertently revealing Homsi’s
identity to a Lebanese man he was trying to turn into a double agent, but who
worked for Lebanese intelligence, the ABC said.
newspapers and Germany’s Der Spiegel claimed in March
that Zygier had believed
the man was close to Hezbollah militants.
The plan reportedly went wrong
when Zygier tried to prove his credentials by giving up the name of Homsi and
another Lebanese agent for Israel named Mustafa Ali Awadeh. His actions caused
Israel to abandon the mission, ABC said.Reuters contributed to this