Stamp issued in honor of Eli Cohen 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Rumors swirled Sunday night that the remains of legendary Israeli spy Eli Cohen were on their way to Israel from Syria with a Russian delegation just weeks after an IDF soldier missing for close to four decades was brought back for burial.
Israeli cabinet ministers have refused to comment on the rumors which were first published by Channel 12 News Sunday night which were also questioned by other news channels as there were no official Syrian opposition reports rather only flimsy social media accounts.
Cohen, an Egyptian-born Jew, was a legendary undercover Israeli agent for the Mossad intelligence agency in Syria under the alias Kamal Amin Ta’abet, providing Israel with considerable details on Syrian political and military matters.
He was able to build close ties with business, military and government leaders becoming the Chief Advisor to the Syrian Defense Minister. Cohen’s suggestion to the Syrians to plant trees on the Golan near each of their fortifications enabled the IDF to capture the Golan Heights in the Six Day War two years after his death.
After his cover was blown, he was hanged in Martyrs Square in the Syrian capital of Damascus 1965 and in an effort to prevent Israel from retrieving his body the Syrian government moved his remains several times.
Last year, his widow Nadia implored the government of Bashar Assad to return her husbands remains to Israel for burial.
"I implore you, even beg of you, to release Eli's remains. I'm 83 years old, look at us and forgive,” she said during a speech at the International Multidisciplinary Conference on the Treatment of War Injuries at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya.
"I thank those who came up with the idea that I speak to Assad's heart. I sent him letters 18 years ago as well as photos of our children, and grandchildren to soften his heart and release Eli's body," she was quoted by Ynet news as saying.
"Eli was an angel who [came into this world] to fulfill a certain role, to protect his country and his people..He adored Israel and the piece of land we had received. He was a Zionist who contributed and helped [the State of Israel] and left behind three children that don't even know him," she said.
Last year his watch was obtained in a special Mossad operation and was presented to his family by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not explain how it retrieved the watch, which had been in “enemy hands” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the intelligence service for the operation.
“I commend the fighters of the Mossad for the determined and courageous operation, the sole objective of which was to return to Israel a memento from a great fighter who greatly contributed to the security of the state,” he said.
The rumors of Cohen’s body being removed from Syria come just weeks after the remains of IDF soldier Sgt. Zachary Baumel were returned to Israel with Russia’s help after nearly 40 years since he was declared missing in action during the First Lebanon War in 1982.
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