Russia has reportedly asked Syria, on behalf of Israel, to return the remains of Eli Cohen, the Mossad agent who was caught and hanged while operating in the country in 1965.
Moscow’s request followed several Israeli appeals to the Russians, who are now highly influential in Damascus given their support for Syrian leader Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war and their direct military involvement on his behalf since 2015, the Haaretz daily reported Thursday.
But the Syrians still claim, as they have consistently in the past, that they do not know where Cohen is buried, the paper said.
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.
An unnamed Israeli official told Haaretz that President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene with the Syrians over the past year, with Netanyahu repeating the request to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev when the latter visited Israel in November.
“The Syrians said they checked and searched, but don’t know where Cohen is buried and so cannot help,” the official was quoted as saying. “The Russians were very disappointed with the Syrian answer and expressed dissatisfaction with it.”
Monder Mosuly, a former bureau chief of the late Syrian leader Hafez Assad who met Cohen before he was executed, told the Al-Arabiya network in 2008 that Cohen’s remains were moved three times to prevent the Israelis from ever finding them.