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April 22, 2019 2:06 pm

IDF Dispels Rumors of Return of Body of Legendary Spy Eli Cohen

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A detail of the commemorative stamp honoring Eli Cohen issued by the State of Israel in 2000, on the 34th anniversary of his hanging. Photo: Reuters.

The body of legendary spy Eli Cohen is not being returned to Israel, despite some recent media reports to the contrary, the IDF clarified on Monday.

In the early 1960s, Cohen succeeded in becoming one of the Mossad’s most effective deep-penetration agents, infiltrating the highest levels of the Syrian defense establishment. He was arrested and executed in 1965. The whereabouts of his body are unknown, and both Israel and his family have been seeking its return for decades.

Over the past week, reports emerged, mainly from opposition forces fighting Syrian ruler Bashar Assad that were then cited in the Israeli media, that a Russian delegation had located the body and would be handing it over to Israel in the near future.

According to Israeli news site Mako, the IDF quashed the rumors with a statement reading, “There is no progress on the issue of locating the body of Eli Cohen and the reports regarding the transfer of his body by the Russians are inaccurate.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also vehemently denied the rumors, saying, “We reject outright the claims by a number of Israeli news outlets that Russian representatives allegedly took the remains of Mossad agent Eli Cohen … out of Syria.”

It referred to the rumors as a “provocation” undertaken by certain actors whose motives were “unclear.”

The possibility that Cohen’s body might be returned was given added credibility last month when the body of Zachary Baumel, an IDF soldier killed in Lebanon in 1982, was returned to Israel from Syria with Russian help.

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