Israel is very close to retrieving the remains of iconic Israeli spy Eli Cohen, according to a report in Al-Jarida newspaper.
The Kuwaiti daily, considered one of the most trustworthy news sources in Arab media, reported that Israeli intelligence has received reliable information as to the location of Cohen’s remains, which are being held along with his personal possessions by Syrian authorities. The report comes just a week after Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency recovered a wristwatch belonging to the legendary Israeli hero.
Cohen, an ardent Zionist and Egyptian-born Jew, served as a spy for Israel in Egypt and Syria under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabet for four years, even moving to Argentina to establish his identity as a Syrian businessman. He befriended top Syrian officials and became an adviser to the Syrian Minister of Defense, passing secret information to Israel that ended up being vital to Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War. Cohen’s true identity was discovered in 1965; he was subjected to a hasty trial and publicly hanged.
Israel immediately set to work attempting to locate and spirit away Cohen’s body, but it was moved from its original burial place. Cohen’s widow, Nadia, has made numerous requests from Syria to return her husband’s remains, even as late as at the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, but was unsuccessful.
According to the report, Israel appears to have reached an agreement with Syrian President Bashar Assad to have the located remains DNA-tested and to relax its position regarding deployment of the Syrian army along Israel’s northern border if the testing confirms that the remains are Cohen’s.
Cohen’s watch, which will be displayed at the Mossad headquarters for the next few weeks, was presented to his family at a ceremony marking the anniversary of his death. It will be returned to the family for the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
“I commend the fighters of the Mossad for the determined and courageous operation, the sole objective of which was to return to Israel a memento from a great fighter who greatly contributed to the security of the state,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen spoke about Eli, saying “his heritage—of dedication, determination, courage, and love of the homeland—is our heritage.”
Nadia Cohen told Channel 10 news that the return of the watch was very emotional for her. “It was something that was placed on Eli’s skin,” she said. “God willing, perhaps his body will also be returned to Israel.”