TEL AVIV – Fifty-one years after the infamous execution of Israeli spy Eli Cohen in Damascus, new footage showing the Mossad agent on the gallows was posted on Syrian opposition forces’ social media accounts this week.
The black-and-white video, titled “Syrian Art Treasures,” shows a crowd gathering to witness what appears to be Cohen’s body being lowered into a coffin.
Cohen was executed for espionage after he infiltrated the Syrian government over a period of four years under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabet. Then-prime minister Levi Eshkol said Cohen’s intelligence contributed to Israel’s astonishing victory in the 1967 Six Day War.
Nadia, Eli Cohen’s widow, told Israel’s Channel 2 that seeing the video was “very painful” and “disturbed her soul.”
“Seeing the coffin and the body, the masses cheering and the music they composed for this operation—it’s a feeling of pain and tears,” Nadia told Ynet news.
Cohen also said she hoped “someone would stand up and tell us where Eli is buried, and bring him back. Let there be one patriot who will discover where the body is and give us peace and comfort.”
The Syrian regime has claimed it is unaware of the current whereabouts of Cohen’s remains.
As recently as 2011, attempts have been made to return his body. According to Nadia Cohen, late Mossad chief Meir Dagan asked the United States to assist in returning her husband’s remains soon after the Syrian civil war broke out.
Syrian expert Dr. Yehuda Balanga of the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Bar-Ilan University told Ynet that comparing the footage with photos taken at the time seems to verify its authenticity.
“Eli Cohen was a hero on whose myth I grew up as well,” Dr. Balanga said. “So far, only photos of the event have been published, not videos. The photos published in 1965 were in the press. We never saw a video. There were books and you could see the photos of the trial and of the execution there, but I don’t remember ever seeing something that has to do with the execution and the moments following it.”
“It’s quite amazing that the Syrian authorities kept something of this kind in their archives,” he continued, “This really looks like the Martyrs’ Square, Marjeh Square in Damascus. That’s Eli in the footage and not someone else.
“If you pause on the picture of Eli Cohen’s body, and the writing on it, you see that the writing is authentic and you can compare it to the photos that were published at the time. The date is May 18, 1965, and that’s the execution date. It says there what his crimes were and what he did.”