Sunday, May 22, 2011

⅏Did You Know: Eli Cohen - Israel's Greatest Spy

Did You Know...
 Eli Cohen was Israel's Greatest Spy?
On May 18, 1965, the Government of Syria executed Eli Cohen, despite protests from world leaders and Israel. He was never allowed a defense at his trial. He was brutally tortured during interrogation in defiance of international humanitarian law and his body was never returned to his family.
Eliahu ben Shaoul Cohen, an Egyptian-born Jew (Dec. 26, 1924 - May 18, 1965), is regarded as one of the most successful agents Israel ever recruited. 
He is best known for his work in Syria, where he developed close relationships with the political and military hierarchy and became the Chief Adviser to the Minister of Defense. He was eventually exposed and executed in Martyr's Square, Syria in 1965 with the television cameras rolling for the entire world to see. The intelligence he gathered is claimed to have been an important factor in Israel's success in the Six Day War (1967 Arab-Israeli War).

On August 31, 1959, he married a beautiful Iraqi-born Jew, Nadia Majald. He worked as an accountant. Employment was not always steady, and he soon had to rely more on Nadia to help support their marriage, which would quickly lead to children.
Eli was drafted to the secret service on May 24, 1960. On June 10 they informed him that he passed all the tests to be a spy. To be a spy Eli needed to have two basic things:
1) To look like an Arab.
2) To know how to speak Arabic.
And Eli had both of these.
He worked as a Mossad agent in Damascus, Syria under the alias of  Kamel Amin Thaabet كامل أمين ثابت (commonly pronounced Saabet) from 1962 until his exposure and execution on May 18, 1965. 

During those years using this alias, Cohen gained the confidence of many Syrian military and government officials, and sent intelligence to Israel by radio, secret letters, and occasionally in person. His most famous achievement was when he toured the Syrian fortifications on the Golan Heights. He was the only civilian to receive private tours of military installations, even being photographed in the then Syrian controlled Golan Heights with high ranking Syrian officials looking over into Israel.
Eli Cohen weds Nadia, August, 1959
As a result Eli sent highly informative reports back to Israel detailing the Syrian water deviation project and each and every one of the outposts on the Golan, including tank traps designed to impede any Israeli attack.

Eli’s influence on Syrian officials helped Israel beyond measure.  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 (eucalyptus trees grow very quickly), preventing 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.

Trial and execution
Eli  became far less careful in his transmissions to Israel, sometimes calling once or even twice a day - and almost always at the same time, at 8:30 in the morning. The transmissions became longer as well. Some attributed this to a sense of cockiness (despite the fears he had expressed in November 1964), due to the ability and ease he had moved about in the highest echelons of Syrian power. Others have attributed the carelessness to an almost suicidal tendency - perhaps, it was later surmised, he had been in the undercover world too long, but knew he couldn’t get out of it. Because of that, perhaps he just tired of the whole charade.

The Syrians and their Russian advisers were alarmed by the intelligence that was seeping out of the country. The highly vigilant Russian security experts, equipped with very sensitive technical intelligence-gathering equipment, pinpointed the source of the transmissions in the Syrian capital - and it was Eli’s home. 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 trial, he was found guilty of espionage.

Despite many appeals, including from Pope Paul VI and the governments of France, Belgium and Canada, to persuade the Syrian government to commute the death sentence, he was publicly hanged by Syria on 18 May 1965 before a crowd of more than 10,000. After his execution, a white parchment filled with Anti-Zionist writing was put on his body and he was left hanging for six hours.

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. In August 2008 the former bureau chief of late Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad, Monthir Maosily, said that Eli Cohen's burial site is unknown, claiming that the Syrians buried the executed Israeli spy three times, to stop the remains from being brought back to Israel via a special operation.
Eli's brothers, Abraham and Maurice Cohen led the campaign to return his remains. Maurice died in 2006. Eli's widow, Nadia, has since led the campaign.
The film The Impossible Spy is a depiction of his life. He is featured at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.
A memorial stone for him was been in Garden of the Missing Soldiers in Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

What is perhaps most amazing about Eli Cohen is that he was genuinely liked - even loved - by so many of the top Syrian leaders. He had an input into and an impact on Syrian national defense, and was privy to almost all of their secrets. He genuinely fit into life in the Syrian capital and he was never suspected of being a spy until almost the very end.

It is for these reasons Eli Cohen is known as Israel’s greatest spy.


Did You Know?  For the month of

back in.....

  • 1881, American Red Cross founded.  In Washington, D.C., humanitarians Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons found the American National Red Cross, an organization established to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters in congruence with the International Red Cross.
  • 1896, Tornado Decimated Texas Town.  A particularly intense tornado hit Sherman, Texas, on May 15, 1896, and killed 73 people. It is estimated that the tornado was a rare F5 tornado, in which winds exceeded 260 miles per hour. Storms of that strength happen, on average, less than once a year. 
  • 1904, The United States hosted the Olympics for the First Time in St. Louis.  It was at these games that the tradition of awarding gold, silver and bronze medals to winners began.
  • 1924, Leopold and Loeb Gained National Attention.  Fourteen-year-old Bobbie Franks is abducted from a Chicago, Illinois, street and killed in what later proves to be one of the most fascinating murders in American history. The killers, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, were extremely wealthy and intelligent teenagers whose sole motive for killing Franks was the desire to commit the "perfect crime."
  • 1929, The first Academy Awards were Presented.  The entire ceremony took just 15 minutes!
  • 1941, First Allied Jet FlownOn May 15, 1941, the jet-propelled Gloster-Whittle E 28/39 aircraft flew successfully over Cranwell, England, in the first test of an Allied aircraft using jet propulsion. The aircraft's turbojet engine, which produced a powerful thrust of hot air, was devised by Frank Whittle, an English aviation engineer and pilot generally regarded as the father of the jet engine.
  • 1942, Thousands of Jews Died in Nazi Gas Chambers; IG Farber sets up Factory.  On May 21, 1942, 4,300 Jews are deported from the Polish town of Chelm to the Nazi extermination camp at Sobibor, where all are gassed to death. On the same day, the German firm IG Farben sets up a factory just outside Auschwitz, in order to take advantage of Jewish slave laborers from the Auschwitz concentration camps.
  • 1950, The First Dunkin' Donuts opened in Quincy, MA.  Many predicted the business would fail because of the high prices - 5 cents for a donut and 10 cents for a cup of coffee - but today there are more than 7,000 stores globally!
  • 1958, Jerry Lee Lewis Dropped a Bombshell in London.  The arrival in the United Kingdom of one of the biggest figures in rock and roll was looked forward to with great anticipation in May of 1958.  There was just one problem: Unbeknownst to the British public and the organizers of the coming tour, Jerry Lee Lewis would be traveling to England as a newly married man, with his pretty young wife in tow, his cousin Myra, who was only 13 at the time. He lost an incredible amount of respect and credibility. The marriage almost ended his career and caused him to move from rock to a more country style. They had two children together, and ended up divorced in 1970.
  • 1967, Belgium Department Store burns. A fire at the L'Innovation department store in Brussels, Belgium, kills 322 people on May 22, 1967. Poor preparation and safety features were responsible for the high death toll.  At L'Innovation, it was the first day of a heavily promoted American fortnight exhibition, a salute to American fashion. There were many United States flags displayed through the store as part of the promotion and hundreds of clerks were on hand for the expected crowds on opening day. There were approximately 2,500 people shopping in the store during their lunch hours when fire broke out in the furniture department on the fourth floor, just after noon. However, virtually no one in the store was aware of the fire because no fire alarm went off, nor were there any sprinklers.
  • 1972, Governor George Wallace shotDuring an outdoor rally in Laurel, Maryland, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama and a presidential candidate, is shot by 21-year-old Arthur Bremer. Three others were wounded, and Wallace was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The next day, while fighting for his life in a hospital, he won major primary victories in Michigan and Maryland. However, Wallace remained in the hospital for several months, bringing his third presidential campaign to an irrevocable end.
  • 1976,  A young woman and her married lover killed her family.  Patricia Columbo and Frank DeLuca are arrested for the brutal slaying of Columbo's parents and brother in Elk Grove, Illinois. Twenty-year-old Columbo had left her family home two years earlier to live with DeLuca, a 36-year-old married man. The pair later killed Frank, Mary, and Michael Columbo in order to receive the family inheritance, unaware that the Columbos had written Patricia out of their wills years earlier.

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