Thursday, September 22, 2016

51 years on, footage of Mossad spy Eli Cohen's hanging emerges - Daniel Siryoti and Nitzi Yakov

by Daniel Siryoti and Nitzi Yakov

Syrian opposition uploads video of Mossad agent Eli Cohen's 1965 execution in Damascus • Cohen's intelligence was key to success of 1967 Six-Day War • Cohen's place of burial remains unknown, his widow urges authorities to increase search for information.

Eli Cohen's public execution
Photo credit: From leaked video

Fifty-one years after Israeli Mossad agent Eli Cohen was captured, tortured and executed in Syria, a Facebook page affiliated with the Syrian opposition uploaded a video showing him on the gallows. 

The page, "Syrian art treasures" has published video footage that appears to have been taken on May 18, 1965, the day of the execution.

The video shows Cohen's lifeless body hanging from the gallows, as the masses gather in a public square to bear witness to the execution. His body is shown wrapped in a cloth displaying Cohen's crimes in Arabic and brought down from the gallows to be laid in a coffin. The video shows Cohen's coffin then being lifted onto a military vehicle that later drives off to an unknown location.

Claims were made that Cohen's body was buried under the central square in Damascus, now an urban area featuring buildings and roads. 

Cohen's exact place of burial remains unknown to this day.

"It's hard," Cohen's widow, Nadia, told Channel 2 News Tuesday. "This takes me back. I didn't see the whole video, only pictures. My children saw it, and now the sorrow has overtaken our souls. There was crying, there was grief to see it so tangibly, to see the masses in the square accompanied by joyous music blasting. It's not easy. It simply drives me crazy, drives my soul insane."

She expressed hope that "someone will speak out and say where Eli is buried. Let one patriot come forth to reveal where his body is and give us peace and comfort. This is a basic thing that is enough for us, to know that he's there and we're here."

Few in Israel are unfamiliar with his story, how he succeeded in making friends in the Syrian leadership, passed invaluable information to Israel and was subsequently executed. Although he is regarded as a hero, the video forces loved ones to open old wounds. 

Cohen, who was born in Egypt, was recruited by Israeli intelligence after emigrating to Israel. He worked for the Mossad in Syria, posing as a businessman who had made his fortune in South America. Thanks to his talents and widespread web of contacts, which stretched into the Syrian leadership and military, Cohen succeeded in infiltrating the upper echelons of the regime in Damascus. 

He became one of the best operatives Israeli intelligence services have ever had in an Arab country. Years after his execution, senior officials in the Israeli intelligence thanked him, as the information Cohen provided was key to helping Israel land the lightning-strike attacks that crippled Arab armies during the 1967 Six-Day War.

In 1965, Cohen's cover was compromised after Syrian intelligence feared there was a mole in the regime's leadership leaking classified information. He was exposed during a clandestine Syrian army exercise, when the Syrian chief of staff changed frequencies used on the radios. Cohen, who was unaware of the frequency change, sent information to his Mossad superiors on the same frequency used by the Syrian army. He was discovered and trapped in his Damascus home. Cohen was later arrested, and his trial was broadcast on Syrian television. 
He was found guilty, sentenced to death, and executed before tens of thousands of impassioned Syrians.

Daniel Siryoti and Nitzi Yakov


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