“I ask the Emiratis … to ask and make an agreement with the Syrians to return my father’s body”
in a special interview i24 News Arab Channel, Sophie Bendor, daughter of legendary Israeli spy Eli Cohen, has called on the United Arab Emirates and its ambassador to Israel to help her bring her father’s body back to Israel from Syria, where he has been held since his execution in Damascus in 1965.
“I ask the UAE, which has a greater presence in my country and on the international stage, to help us mediate and demand and reach an agreement with the Syrians for the return of my father’s remains,” Ben-Dor said.
Cohen was sentenced to death by a special military court in Damascus on May 8, 1965, and was publicly hanged in the city’s Al Marjeh Square 10 days later. The Egyptian-born Israeli spy has successfully infiltrated Syria. His undercover work from 1961 to 1965 brought him into the country’s political and military inner circle before he was eventually discovered.
Syria has refused to return Cohen’s body to his family in Israel. In November 1965, his wife, Nadia Cohen, wrote to then-Syrian President Amin al-Hafiz requesting a burial for her late husband, but was refused.
A year ago, Cohen’s family made a request to Moscow for assistance in repatriating the remains. Arab media reported in 2021 that Russia was actively searching for Cohen’s remains in the Yarmouk refugee camp cemetery south of Damascus, one of his suspected burial sites in Syria.
However, no substantial progress has been made on this matter. Israel has been trying to bring his remains home for decades.
Asked if there were any new international parties turning to Russia besides Russia, Ben-Dor said, “Russia is very isolated in the Western world right now,” explaining that she believed the UAE channel could be a unique and more effective channel.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea, I’m not alone, but it seems to me that it’s an unusual channel, and it’s also an Arabic channel. I think we’ll get a clearer answer. If there’s a motive , it has a chance to happen sooner. The family will make a formal appeal to the UAE ambassador to Israel (Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja), “she said.
The UAE established diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords, and the two countries have since stepped up military and security cooperation.
The UAE is considered an important player in the region, with the potential to influence Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad. March, Assad visits UAE This is his first state visit to an Arab country since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war 11 years ago. In November 2021, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahanin, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, traveled to Damascus to meet with Assad.