On May 18, 1965, the Government of Syria executed Eli Cohen, despite protests from world leaders and Israel.

  • He was never allowed a defense at his trial.

  • He was brutally tortured during interrogation in defiance of international humanitarian law

  • His body was never returned to his family.


1914 Shaul Cohen emigrates from Aleppo Syria to Egypt.
Dec 16, 1924: Eliahu (Eli) Cohen is born in Alexandria, Egypt.
March 22, 1945: 2 young Jewish Palestinians are hanged in Egypt for the political assassination of former British Colonial Secretary Lord Moyne.
Jan 1947: Eli Cohen chooses to enlist in the Egyptian army, rather than pay the proscribed sum expected of young Jews. Eli is declared ineligible on the grounds of questionable loyalty.
Nov 1947: Increased harassment by the Moslem Brotherhood forces Eli to leave university and study at home.
1949/1950: Continuing troubles provoke many Jewish families, including the Cohen family to leave Egypt. Eli remains to try and finish a degree in electronics.
1951: Following a military coup, an anti-Zionist campaign is initiated in Egypt. Eli is arrested on suspicion of engaging in Zionist activities.
Jan 27, 1955: An Israeli intelligence unit operating in Egypt and attempting to destroy Egyptian relationships with western powers, is uncovered. The unit sabotaged American and British installations expecting that this would be considered the work of Egyptians. After a trial, two of the group's members are executed. Eli had aided the unit and was implicated, however no link between Eli and the accused could be found.
Dec 1956: Official anti-Semitic attacks, house raids and mass arrests continue to persecute Egyptian Jewry. Eli is eventually driven out of Egypt by the Ministry of the Interior. With the help of the Jewish Agency Eli travels to Israel via Naples by boat.
August 1959:
Eli marries Nadia in a modest Sephardic ceremony in Tel Aviv.
Late 1960: Eli works in various occupations until he is persuaded by the Mossad to join it. After months of intensive training Eli is sent to Argentina for the first phase of his mission, adopting the alias Kamal Amin Ta'abet.
Dec 1961: Following a military coup in Syria, Eli leaves Argentina and travels via Israel, Zurich and Egypt to Damascus.
1962: Eli takes a risk beyond the call of duty to deliver an explosive letter to Adolf Eichmann's negotiator Rademacher who was in hiding in Syria.
Feb 1961: Eli joins the Baath party promising to become 'a true example of the struggling Arab'.
March 1961: In a military coup, the Baath party seizes power in Syria.
Eli visits Syria's southern frontier zone and supplies Israel with photographs and sketch plans that were to be of inestimable value during the Six Day War.
October 5, 1963: Eli attends the Sixth National Convention Of The Baath. As a member of the Syrian National Revolutionary Command and volunteer worker for Radio Damascus Eli had access to most sessions, while high level contacts allowed him entry to closed sessions.
1964: Eli discovers Syrian plans to divert the headwaters of the Jordan to cut off Israel's water supply. Eli looks into the plans of Al-Fatah (Palestine National Liberation Movement) to use guerrilla warfare to attack Northern Israel. Eli's brother Maurice is one of the operatives employed by Mossad to receive Eli's messages.
November 1964:
Eli returns to his home in Bat Yam for the birth of his third child. Eli assures Nadia that there will be only one more trip abroad before he returns to Israel permanently.
November 13, 1964: Following a Syrian artillery attack on the Israeli settlements of Dan, Dafna and Shear Yishuv, Israeli jets successfully bomb Syrian positions. Information Eli had provided on the Syrian artillery positions proves to be vital.
Jan 24, 1965:
Syrian efforts to find a top-level leak are stepped up. With the help of Soviet tracking equipment and a period of radio silence, it was hoped that any illegal transmissions could be identified. In a pre-dawn raid, Eli Cohen is caught while transmitting to Israel.

Eli is interrogated and tortured. Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir leads a campaign, petitioning the international community to force Damascus to consider the consequences of hanging Eli. Diplomats, Prime Ministers, and Pope Paul VI try to intercede.

Feb 28 - March 19 1965:
Eli's is tried in a military tribunal, but is denied legal defense.
May 8, 1965:
The sentence of the 'special tribunal' is announced at a press conference, Eli Cohen is to be executed by hanging. There would be no appeal.
May 18, 1965:
Eli is allowed to see a Rabbi and to write a final letter to his wife Nadia.

Eli is hanged before a crowd of more than 10,000.

June, 1967: Aided by the brave intelligence work of Eli Cohen, Israel defeats the combined Arab armies in the Six Day War.
Present: Eli Cohen's family continues to petition President Dr. Bashar el Assad of Syria to return Eli's remains to Israel. For over 38 years the Cohen family have not been able to visit Eli's graveside or say Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning.