Eli Cohen
Eli CohenGPO - the National Photograph Collection

Sophie Ben-Dor, daughter of Israeli spy Eli Cohen, on Monday appealed to the United Arab Emirates and its ambassador in Israel to help bring the body of her father back to Israel from Syria, where it has been held since he was executed in Damascus in 1965.

"I am asking the Emiratis, who occupy a greater place among our country and in the international arena, to help us mediate, and to ask and reach agreements with the Syrians to return my father's body," Ben-Dor told the i24NEWS Arabic channel in a special interview.

Cohen was sentenced to death by a special military court in Damascus on May 8, 1965, and 10 days later was hanged publicly in the city's Al Marjeh Square. The Egyptian-born Israeli spy had successfully infiltrated Syria. His undercover work from 1961 until 1965 brought him into the country's political and military inner circle before being eventually found out.

Syria refused to return Cohen's body to his family in Israel. In November 1965, his wife, Nadia Cohen, sent a letter to then-Syrian president Amin al-Hafiz, requesting her late husband's remains, but was denied the request.

Cohen's family made a request to Moscow a year ago to assist with the body's return. Arab media reported in 2021 that Russia was actively searching for Cohen's remains at the Yarmouk refugee camp cemetery in south Damascus, which is one of the locations in Syria he is suspected of being buried.

However, no real progress was made on the matter.

Two weeks ago, Mossad Director David Barnea publicly revealed – for the first time – the last telegram received from Cohen prior to his capture.

In the telegram, which is dated 19 February 1965, the day on which he is estimated to have been captured, Mossad agent Cohen reports on a Syrian General Staff meeting held the previous evening with the participation of then Syrian President Amin Al-Hafez.

Barnea said that “Cohen was not captured due to the quantity of his transmissions or pressure from headquarters to transmit too frequently.”

“Eli Cohen was captured because his transmissions were simply intercepted and triangulated by the enemy. This is now an intelligence fact,” he added.

Ben-Dor was asked in Monday’s interview with i24NEWS whether there are any new international parties besides Russia that the family turned to, and replied, "Russia is now very isolated in the Western world," explaining that she believes the Emirati channel can be a unique and more effective one.

"I think it's an excellent idea, I didn't think of it alone, but it seems to me that it's an unusual channel, it's also an Arab channel. And I think we will get clearer answers. And if there is a motivation, it has a chance to happen faster. There will be an official appeal from the family to the Emirati ambassador in Israel (Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja)," she added.

Israel and the UAE established diplomatic ties in 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords and have since increased their military and security cooperation.