Ex-Mossad member: Claims of Zygier crime ‘fiction’

Ex-head of MIA Division disputes report Zygier botched operation to recover the bodies of soldiers killed in the 1982 Lebanon war.

Ben Zygier 370 (photo credit: Courtesy ABC)
Ben Zygier 370
(photo credit: Courtesy ABC)
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.
Zygier, 34, hanged himself in a high-security jail cell in December 2010.
Australian 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 Hezbollah member.
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.
“The rabbinate 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 convention.
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 Zvi Feldman.
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 years.
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.
Australia’s Fairfax 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 report.