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Monday, May 14, 2007

Syria claims Eli Cohen's grave is 'inaccessible'

Approximately six weeks ago, a Syrian-born American citizen named Ibrahim Suleiman - who is ostensibly close to the Assad family - addressed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and claimed that Bashar al-Assad wishes to make 'peace' with Israel. The Syrian news agency SANA promptly denied the accuracy of Suleiman's report. Today, there is another indication that Suleiman was naive at best and a fraud at worst.

When discussing 'confidence building' measures between Israel and Syria, the one item that always comes up is for the Syrians to return the body of Eli Cohen HY"D. Cohen, who was executed by the Syrians in 1965 for spying for Israel, spent three years as a Mossad agent in which he penetrated the inner reaches of the Syrian government. Information supplied by Cohen is credited with enabling Israel to liberate the Golan Heights in the 1967 War, forty years ago at the end of this week (on the Jewish calendar). For example, during Suleiman's appearance in the Knesset, the following exchange took place:
Committee members suggested Syria stop smuggling arms to Hezbollah, cool ties with Iran or initiate 'even something that does not have strategic significance such as return the remains of Eli Cohen,' suggested committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi. Cohen was an Israeli spy hanged in Damascus in 1965.

'Syria is at war with Israel, theoretically. Why do you expect Syria to do anything to help Israel if you don`t answer (its initiative)?' asked Soliman.

'In the Middle East you don`t give your cards before you feel an indication the other side is ready to give its cards,' added Liel [a former director general of the Israeli foreign ministry. CiJ].

Olmert would not meet Soliman, and a scheduled dinner with a senior Foreign Ministry official was canceled.

'Why do we have to meet him?' asked Olmert`s media adviser Miri Eisin. The Syrians 'don`t want peace. They want the peace process,' she said. The Foreign Ministry said dinner would have been 'inadequate.'

However, Hanegbi felt Soliman did have 'very direct and very intimate contacts and access to the Syrian leadership, including the Syrian president, and before that also with the president`s father,' President Hafez Assad.

Soliman would not identify the Syrian officials to whom he reported after every meeting with Liel.

'I have friends in Syria, high official friends. ... We got advice,' he said.
Today, there's word that there's another reason why the Syrians won't return Eli Cohen's body back to Israel, and it has nothing to do with him being a spy. One also has to wonder whether Suleiman was aware of it:
Syria has erected buildings and created a park over the grave of Eli Cohen, a Mossad agent who was murdered 42 years ago in Damascus after being exposed as an Israeli spy, a former Syrian bureau chief said on Monday.

"He is buried in the area of al-Maza in Damascus, and over his grave are houses, roads, and parks," Monjer Motsley, who worked with former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, said in an interview with the al-Arabia internet site. "Nobody is able to reach him."
Some of you may recall that there is a controversy here in Jerusalem (yes, it's still going on although it has not been widely reported in the press recently) over building a museum atop portions of what was a Muslim cemetery until it was declared abandoned more than forty years ago. I wonder what the Wakf and the Islamic Movement - Northern Front (which are behind that controversy) would have to say about this. At least in the Jerusalem case, the graves are to be relocated or construction will not take place directly on top of them. But no, I don't expect the Wakf or the Islamic Movement to say anything about Eli Cohen. After all, he was just a kuffar spy.

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