Stamp issued in honor of Eli Cohen 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Arab media expressed great interest in an exclusive report in Maariv's weekend edition about the whereabouts of Israeli spy Eli Cohen and the actions taken to locate him.
The report was published on the front page of the London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, which featured the headline: "The corpse of a Cohen in a cave in Qardaha.”
The report also received prominent places in the media in Egypt and Sudan, which read: "Maariv revealed the burial place of the Israeli spy Eli Cohen."
Several Arab media outlets fully translated Maariv
's article, with some of them also adding the appeal of Cohen's widow Nadia, who called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to show mercy and return her husband's body to Israel.
Additionally, the report was published by the Russian news agency Sputnik.
In the article published on Friday, an Arab source reported that "the body of the Israeli spy Eli Cohen is buried in a cave on a mountain near Qardaha, in Latakia district."
According to the source, who spoke with a Syrian official, the Mossad carried out a diversion operation in 1977 on the Syrian-Jordanian border. Operatives were reportedly digging at the same time in Damascus, where the body of Cohen, who was executed by hanging in 1965, was buried.
After President Hafez Assad became aware of the operation, he ordered the body to be transferred to another hiding place.
"Three soldiers from the Presidential Guard were the ones who transferred Cohen's body in a secret operation," the source said. "Two of them have already died, and the third is approaching the age of 80. As far as its known, a recent effort has been made to locate and identify Eli Cohen, but it is not clear whether a DNA sample was transferred to see whether it was the Israeli spy."
The source estimated that the discovery of the body of IDF soldier Zacharia Baumel, who was killed in the first Lebanon war, on the eve of the Israeli elections, delayed the process regarding Cohen's remains, although it is not clear whether this will harm the return of Cohen's body.
Cohen operated behind enemy lines - establishing close ties with the top Syrian political and military leadership - from 1962 until he was hanged almost exactly 43 years ago on May 18, 1965. Cohen, who was known in intelligence circles by the number 566, wrote in encrypted French and sent his messages via a tiny radio transmitter. Cohen's transmissions were instrumental in helping the IDF prepare for the 1967 war with Syria. He provided information about the Syrian Air Force and military positions on the Golan
The Israeli spy's 84-year-old widow Nadia, told Maariv
: "I am happy that Baumel's body was returned to his parents and family after 37 years, and I do not think this will affect the return of Eli's body. They are separate stories."
On the eve of the Passover holiday, Nadia Cohen conveyed a public and moving message to the current Syrian president, Bashar Assad, through Maariv
She called on him to demonstrate compassion. "Syrian President Bashar Assad, please release Eli for burial," she said. "If you have a religion and you believe in God, please release him."
"Eli paid the price a few decades ago, why keep his bones? [For] revenge? Pain? There is a lot of pain in your people, please do [this] for me and my children - have compassion. If you do not forgive, it stays inside, I appeal to you so that your heart will soften, release your hatred and anger, and perhaps you will find peace for your people and ours together... thank you, Bashar. Make the gesture."
Both the Prime Minister's Office and Russian officials denied reports last week that Cohen's remains had been found, exhumed and were en-route to Israel.
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