JERUSALEM (May. 19)
Israel transmitted to Syria today, through the United Nations Mixed Armistice Commission, a request for the body of Eli Cohen, who was executed in Damascus yesterday, for burial in Israel. It was also disclosed that Israel made an approach to a “friendly nation” to use its offices for arranging the delivery of the body.
Earlier today, the Israel Foreign Ministry voiced “shock and outrage” over the hanging of the 41-year-old Israeli on charges of espionage for Israel. The statement denounced the fact that an “Israeli citizen has been executed in Syria after a travesty of a trial without an opportunity for legal defense, in defiance of the most elementary precepts of justice and in spite of appeals by scores of personalities and organizations asking the Syrians to abide by the customary rules of justice and clemency.”
Israel Galili eulogized Mr. Cohen in Israel’s Parliament, declaring that Israel and the Jewish people will long remember him. He called the Syrian execution “despicable barbarity.” Editorials of Israel’s leading newspapers voiced shock over the “barbarism” displayed by the Syrians, asserting that the action negated minimal concepts of justice and humanitarianism accepted throughout the world.
News of the trial was withheld in Israel throughout the 40 days of proceedings in order not to prejudice efforts to save Mr. Cohen. Israel, it was learned, offered to exchange any or all of Syrian prisoners it was holding in exchange for commutation of the death sentence. The Syrians rejected the offer just as they rebuffed all appeals for clemency, which included requests from two European heads of state, Pope Paul VI, the Argentine Vice-President, and countless leading world personalities, including the Lebanese Bishop in New York.
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim issued a statement today requesting that special prayers in memory of Mr. Cohen be recited in all synagogues after the reading of the Torab.