Foreign diplomats meeting with President Bashar Assad
in Damascus surprised him by handing him a video tape from the widow of Israeli spy Eli Cohen,
caught and hung in Damascus 40 years ago.
The video included an emotional address to the president asking him to return the remains of the late spy to Israel for burial.
The story has been kept under wraps for several months to prevent embarrassment to Assad, but foreign diplomats reported that Assad promised to watch the video.
Nadia Cohen, 69, the widow of the famous spy, had sent a personal letter to President Assad, but never received a response. She had contacted foreign ministers, ambassadors and even the pope, for assistance. However, the Syrian president refused at all costs to return Eli Cohen's remains to Israel.
After using up all her options, Nadia decided to send the Syrian president a video tape. The film was taken in Nadia Cohen's back yard with her grandchildren seated behind her.
She addressed the president in Hebrew, while English and Arabic subtitles appeared on the screen. In the first few minutes of the video, Nadia faces the camera and calls on the president to put an end to the terrible tragedy.
"Bashar and Asama Assad Shalom. My name is Nadia Cohen, I am the widow of Eli Cohen," she says in the video.
'Respect us as human beings'
"Firstly, allow me to wish you well on the birth of your son. For 40 years I have been carrying a terrible story around with me, one I am sure you are familiar with. I have raised three children, and now they are raising their own, but we are not a family. We are divided because my husband is there, and we are here."
"I would like you to differentiate between your private life and your political life, "she said.
She called on the president to open his heart and reach out, and asked him to take a humanitarian confidence building step.
"I think the world would also view the step as a sign towards peace." Nadia said as she occasionally choked on her tears.
She went on to say how she remembered the day Assad's father died.
"We saw you in the media with your family at your father's grave. We ask you to give us that moment," she said.
"My children and I are hoping and praying that my husband will have a grave here," the subtitles read.
"That was his last wish. Respect him, and respect us as human beings. Act on your emotions as a father. I wish you a long life as a grandfather," she concluded.
Eli Cohen's daughter, Sophie, 44, spoke next. She was just four years old when her father was hung in the main Damascus square.
Sophie also personally addressed the Syrian president in a plea to let her father's remains be returned to Israel.