Russia has transferred to Israel an object believed to have once belonged to the late Mossad spy Eli Cohen, according to Syrian media reports.
The item was found in Syria is currently being examined for further evidence.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has confirmed to the i24News that a search by Russian authorities for Cohen’s remains is underway in Syria.
“It’s true. That’s all I can tell you,” Netanyahu tells the network, adding that he is committed to returning all members of the Israeli security services who are being held abroad, whether they are alive or dead. He says the latest development was able to take place thanks to his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia, which is allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad, recently aided Israel in finding and recovering the remains of Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel who went missing in the 1982 First Lebanon War. That development similarly took place weeks before the 2019 election.
— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) March 9, 2021
Just last week, Cohen’s widow cast doubt on a report that Russian soldiers were searching for his remains in Syria.
“This isn’t confirmation that is what will really happen,” Nadia Cohen said Sunday in an interview with Channel 13 news. “I’m happy that Eli is mentioned on television, mentioned by high-ranking officials.”
Cohen’s comments come after a report in the Ray Al-Youm Arabic news website that said that in recent days Russian soldiers in Syria had stepped up efforts to find the remains of the spy.
The report said the soldiers had been exhuming graves in the Yarmouk refugee camp cemetery and searching caves around Damascus, following “unremitting pressure” from Israel.
Cohen infiltrated the top levels of Syria’s political leadership in the years before the 1967 Six Day War, and information he obtained is credited with playing a key role in Israel’s stunning success in that war.
He was put on trial and executed by the Syrian government for espionage on May 18, 1965, after he successfully breached the Syrian government under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabet for four years.
Cohen’s body has not been returned from Syria, despite decades of appeals by his family. Israel has asked for Russia’s help in that effort, so far to no avail.