Mossad chief: Israel must retrieve Eli Cohen’s body from Syria
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Mossad chief: Israel must retrieve Eli Cohen’s body from Syria

Marking 50 years since legendary spy’s execution, widow appeals to government to ‘do all you can to bring him home’

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

President Reuven Rivlin and Nadia Cohen, at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Mossad super spy Eli Cohen, May 18, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin and Nadia Cohen, at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Mossad super spy Eli Cohen, May 18, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Mossad Director Tamir Pardo on Monday said Israel has “an obligation” to bring the body of Mossad spy Eli Cohen to Israel from Syria for burial.

Israel on Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the Damascus hanging of Cohen, in a ceremony attended by the president, prime minister, Cohen’s widow and three children.

“Eli’s legacy, ‘Our Man in Damascus,’ will last forever. It remains our obligation to bring Eli home, to bury him in Israel,” Pardo said at the event, referencing the title of a book about the legendary spy.

Addressing the memorial, Nadia Cohen also appealed to the Israeli government to retrieve her husband’s body from Syrian soil and “bring him home.

Mossad chief Tamir Pardo (photo credit: David Vaaknin/POOL/FLASH90)
Mossad chief Tamir Pardo (photo credit: David Vaaknin/POOL/FLASH90)

“Do not forget where Eli lies. He is not with us,” she said. “I ask, on this special occasion, that you do all you can to bring him home, to the country for which he fought, and paid for with his life.”

Mossad agent Cohen was put on trial and executed by the Syrian government for espionage on May 18, 1965, 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 as greatly assisting Israel during the Six Day War.

'Our man in Damascus,' Mossad agent Eli Cohen (YouTube screenshot)
‘Our man in Damascus,’ Mossad agent Eli Cohen (screen capture: YouTube)

Nadia Cohen unsuccessfully made several appeals to the Syrian government to release his 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 changed after a day or two,” Monjer Motsley said. “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.”

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday termed Cohen “an extraordinary hero.

“Few people are remembered for generations. Among those few, there are almost none from the heroes of the intelligence community,” Rivlin said. “Unknown soldiers who put their souls on the line and risk losing their lives at any minute, under a blanket of secrecy.

“Eli Cohen was an extraordinary hero of Israel,” he said. “He merited that the entire country would know him well and maintain his legacy. We, citizens of Israel, will forever remember Eli Cohen as a true hero who sacrificed his life in the defense of our security and for the freedom of our country.”

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