The Israeli government is refusing to confirm reports that the body of one of its most famous spies has been returned from Syria, just two weeks after the remains of an IDF soldier who had been missing for almost four decades was brought back for burial.
Israeli media are citing Syrian opposition sources in reports that the body of Eli Cohen, who successfully penetrated the highest levels of the Syrian government before being unmasked and publicly executed in 1965, has been taken out of Syria by the Russians.
The reports have raised hopes after the recent return of the body of Sergeant Zachary Baumel, who had been missing since a 1982 battle between the IDF and Syrian forces in the First Lebanon War, was returned to Israel. This was also with the help of the Russians.
Before making any announcement, the remains were tested to confirm that they were indeed those of the fallen soldier.
Sergeant Baumel’s body was then interred at the military cemetery at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, with thousands gathering for the Jewish burial ceremony.
The Syrian regime has long refused to return the body of Eli Cohen, who managed to infiltrate the highest military and political echelons in Syria over three years before being unmasked and hanged in a public square in Damascus in 1965.
Israeli cabinet ministers told Israeli media that they were unaware of such developments at this time.
In July last year, Mossad managed to recover Eli Cohen’s wristwatch, which he had worn in Syria until the day he was captured. The watch was returned to the spy’s wife and children.
Yossi Cohen, director of the Mossad, said: “We remember Eli Cohen and do not forget.
"His heritage, of dedication, determination, courage and love of the homeland, is our heritage. We remember and have maintained a close connection over the years with his family, Nadia and the children."