Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated in an interview with i24NEWS that significant progress has been made in finding the remains of Israeli spy Eli Cohen, who was hanged by Syrian authorities in May 1965 after being discovered as an Israeli spy.
An object belonging to Cohen was found and transferred by the Syrians to Russian forces in the area, according to information obtained by i24NEWS.
Russian forces are allegedly searching on behalf of Israel near the al-Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria.
Netanyahu confirmed to i24NEWS that the Israeli government is indeed searching for his remains, saying when asked about it that "This is true – that's all I can say. "I am committed to restoring each of our fallen and missing," the prime minister said. "We brought the remains of Zachary Baumel to Israel. It came as a result of my close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he sent his forces, under offers of intelligence that we passed on to them, to return Baumel. We will continue these efforts to [return] Eli Cohen and everyone else."
The i24NEWS report also noted that Syria and Russia are currently negotiating the exact price Israel will pay in order to receive more information regarding the whereabouts of Cohen's remains. A Russian source associated with Russia's intelligence apparatus said to i24NEWS that the Syrians gave Russian forces accurate maps of the al-Yarmouk refugee camp, in order to conduct the search.
Eli Cohen is one of Israel's most famous spies. Born to a Jewish family in Alexandria, Egypt, Cohen was notable for developing a close relationship with Syria's political and military elite in the early- to mid-1960s, providing highly valuable intelligence to Israel immediately prior to the outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967.
Cohen was eventually discovered by Syrian counterintelligence in 1965, and later hanged. The daughter of Eli Cohen, Sophie Ben-Dor, criticized Netanyahu in a statement to Ynet for not first approaching Cohen's family before announcing the search for his remains. In the statement, Ben-Dor also said that "Until there are confirmed news and findings, I feel I have nothing to say on the subject. There is a sense that our family and our feelings are being used at the expense of all sorts of irrelevant things. If the prime minister knows something, he should inform us and not through the media. I guess when there are findings, he will publish it in the media for cynical purposes."