Eli Cohen-executed

Event Details :

Ivri Date: 16 Iyar, 5725

English Date: 18 May, 1965

Additional Details:

Eli Cohen (December 26, 1924May 18, 1965) was a celebrated Israeli spy, and is recognized as one of the most successful spies of modern times.

Born in Egypt, Cohen contributed to pro-Israeli activities in Egypt during the 1950s, such as taking part in Operation Goshen although Egyptian government could never provide proof of it. But the most important part of his career began when he was recruited into Israeli military intelligence in 1960. He was given a false identity as a Syrian Arab who was returning to Syria after living in Argentina. To establish his cover, Cohen moved to Argentina in 1961.

Early the following year, he moved to Damascus. For the next few years, using the alias Kamel Amin Tsa'abet (also commonly pronounced Sa'bet or Tha'bet), Cohen gained the confidence of many Syrian military and government officials, and sent intelligence to Israel by radio, secret letters, and occasionally by visiting Israel in person. His most famous achievement was to tour the Syrian fortifications on the Golan Heights. In 1964 his control was transferred to Mossad as part of an intelligence reorganization.

In January 1965, hired Soviet experts caught him in the act of sending a radio message after large amounts of radio interference brought attention. After a showcase trial, he was found guilty of espionage. Despite many appeals including from Pope Paul VI and the heads of state of France, Belgium and Canada, to persuade the Syrian government to commute the death sentence,[1] he was publicly hanged by Syria on May 18, 1965. Syria to this day refuses to return Eli Cohen's remains to his family for burial in Israel.

Cohen made many very critical friendships with high-ranking Syrian generals while undercover. Rumors says he could make a good friendship with Amin Hafiz despit the latter was in Moscow till 1962 [1] After Hafiz became Prime Minister, Eli was even considered for the position of Syrian Deputy Minister of Defense.[2] yet still doubted by many observers and considered as a propaganda [2].

Although the story may be apocryphal, many claim that Cohen suggested that eucalyptus trees should be planted around Syrian military bunkers and mortars on the Golan Heights that were targeting Israel. That way Cohen argued, the trees would provide natural cover for the outposts, as to prevent soldiers and personnel from suffering the effects of heatstroke. After his suggestion was implemented by the Syrian military, Cohen passed on the information to Israeli intelligence, then the Israeli Air Force IAF — using the newly planted trees as a guide — easily destroyed the majority of those bases during the Six-Day War. The mature trees are still evident today when visiting the sites.

Cohen also learned of an important secret Syrian plan to have three lines of bunkers and mortars right behind each other in order to trick the Israeli military, which would expect only one.

While in Syria, Eli Cohen was able to collect much information on Syrian Air force pilots. This included their real and code names and family information. Many claim that this information was used to deter the bombing of Tel Aviv by two Syrian jets during the Six-Day War. As the jets approached their targets, the Mossad informed them over the radio that they knew their identities, that their families were being followed and that if they hit their targets, they would be killed. The pilots dropped their bombs into the sea and reported back that they had "hit their targets"

According to his brother and fellow Mossad agent, Maurice Cohen, Eli Cohen was third in line to succeed as president of Syria, at the time he was discovered.

Requests by his family for his remains to be returned to Israel have been denied by the Syrian government (as of May 2006). In February 2007 a Turkish official confirmed that his government was ready to act as a mediator for the return of Eli's remains to his family from Syria.

He is celebrated as a hero in Israel because he has been credited with being a deciding factor in the outcome of the Six-Day War. The film The Impossible Spy is a depiction of his life. He is featured at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

Relevant Links:
1. izkor
2. jewish virtual library
Eli Cohen-executed