A two-minute video posted on Syrian opposition forces’ social media accounts this week purportedly shows the aftermath of the 1965 execution of Israeli spy Eli Cohen in Damascus.
The black-and-white footage shows what appears to be Cohen’s body being lowered into a coffin after he was hanged in a public square in Damascus over 51 years ago, on May 18 of that year. His remains were not retrieved by Israel and the regime in Syria has claimed it does not know where he is buried.
Mossad agent Cohen was put on trial and executed for espionage after he successfully infiltrated the Syrian government under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabet for four years. The intelligence conveyed to Israel during that period was credited by then-prime minister Levi Eshkol with greatly assisting Israel’s victory during the Six Day War.
Despite the fact that the video is not new, and is included in the archives of The Associated Press, the re-publication set off a stir in Israel.
Nadia Cohen, Eli Cohen’s widow, said she had never seen the footage and told Channel 2 watching the video “was difficult” and that it “took me back [to those days].”
“There were tears and a sadness to see [the post-execution video] right in front of you, how he’s lowered from the rope into the coffin, to see the vehicles there, to see the masses in the square, and all of it accompanied with loud music [and] happiness, it’s not simple,” she said.
“Already daily life is not [easy] and when things like this pop up, it just boggles the mind, and disturbs my soul,” she added.
[Warning: Graphic footage]
فيلم وثائقي بتنفيذ حكم الاعدام بالجاسوس الاسرائيلي ايلي كوهين سنه 1965Documentary film the execution Israeli spy Eli Cohen in 1965
Posted by Syrian art treasures , كنوز الفنون السورية on Saturday, 10 September 2016
Cohen said she hoped “someone would stand up and tell us where Eli is buried, and bring him back. Let there be one patriot who will discover where the body is and give us peace and comfort.”
She called on the prime minister or the Mossad to “fight to bring back Eli.”
“Enough of this torment, that he is there and we are here. Let there be a hero who will bring us quiet. Even in death there is jealousy, that [others can] embrace a grave [in mourning] and we don’t even have that.”
Over the years, Nadia Cohen unsuccessfully made several appeals to the Syrian government to release her late husband’s remains. In 2008, a former bureau chief of late Syrian leader Hafez Assad claimed that no one knew where Cohen was buried.
“The grave was moved after a day or two,” Monjer Motsley said in an interview. “We were scared that Israel would send forces to take away the body.
“It is difficult to find Cohen’s bones,” he added. “Assad promised to return Cohen’s bones, but when he asked about it security officials told him: ‘Sir, we don’t know where the grave is,’ so he couldn’t promise.”
In March, Nadia Cohen told Israel Radio that the late Mossad chief Meir Dagan had sought the assistance of the United States as late as 2011, after the Syrian civil war broke out, to help bring his remains to Israel for burial.
Last year, at the 50th anniversary of his death, then-Mossad director Tamir Pardo said Israel has “an obligation” to bring the body of Cohen to Israel for burial.
“Eli’s legacy, ‘Our Man in Damascus,’ will endure forever. It remains our obligation to bring Eli home, to bury him in Israel,” Pardo said at the event.