Eli Cohen

Eli Cohen


Eliyahu Ben-Shaul Cohen was an Israeli spy. He is best known for his espionage work in Syria, where he developed close relationships with the Syrian political and military hierarchy.


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Cohen was born in 1924 in Alexandria, Egypt to a devout Jewish and Zionist family. His father had moved there from Aleppo in 1914. He studied at Cairo Farouk University.

The Mossad recruited Cohen after Director-General Meir Amit, looking for a special agent to infiltrate the Syrian government, came across his name while looking through the agency's files of rejected candidates, after none of the current candidates seemed suitable for the job. For two weeks Cohen was put under surveillance, and was judged suitable for recruitment and training.

Cohen was then informed that the Mossad had decided to recruit him and underwent an intensive six-month course at the Mossad training school. His graduate report stated that he had all the qualities needed to become a katsa, or field agent.

He was then given a false identity as a Syrian businessman who was returning to the country after living in Argentina. To establish his cover, Cohen moved to Buenos Aires in 1961. In Buenos Aires he moved among the Arab community, letting it be known he had large amounts of money to put at the disposal of the Syrian Ba'ath Party. At this time the Ba'ath Party was illegal in Syria but the party seized power in 1963.

He is best known for his espionage work in 1961–1965 in Syria, where he developed close relationships with the Syrian political and military hierarchy, and became the chief adviser to the Minister of Defense.

Syrian counterintelligence eventually uncovered the spy conspiracy and convicted Cohen under pre-war martial law, sentencing him to death and hanging him publicly in 1965.


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