Australian news network ABC reported that the "reckless indiscretion" of the late Mossad agent Ben Zygier, known as "Prisoner X," led to the abortion of a secret mission aimed to return to Israel the bodies of three IDF soldiers.
Israeli servicemen Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Tzvi Feldman have been missing since the Battle of Sultan Youcoub during the first Lebanon War. It was known the three Israeli tank crewmen were captured and killed by Syrian forces during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
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Lebanese national Ziad Al Homsi told ABC that he was recruited by Mossad in 2007 to take part in an elaborate mission by the Israeli agency to exhume the remains of the three soldiers.
ABC cited Al Homsi as claiming Mossad operatives gave him the exact location of the graves. His job was to organize for them to be exhumed and for the remains to be left at a location disclosed to a second Mossad-sponsored group, who would take over the recovery.
However, in 2009 he was arrested for espionage by Lebanese security forces, which led to the abortion of the entire operation. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail, getting out after only serving three. It remains unclear whether he was, as he claimed, a double agent working for the Lebanese security services to sabotage Israeli efforts, and that his contacts with Mossad were supported and monitored by the Lebanese all along.
It appears that in 2008, in an attempt to revive his fading career as a spy, Zygier, a dual Israeli-Australian national, set out on a mission in the course of which he tried to persuade a Hezbollah operative to become a double agent for Israel. Pressed for his own credentials, Zygier cited Al Homsi as being a double agent for the Israeli agency, thereby compromising the Lebanese man's cover.
Following his January 2010 arrest, Zygier was incarcerated in complete isolation at the Ayalon Prison in Ramla. He had died in a high-security cell in late 2010. According to official documents, he committed suicide and a recent State probe into the matter ended with no indictments.
Following the publication, relatives of the missing soldiers were unimpressed with what they perceived to be an attempt by the secret services to link the failure to retrieve the soldiers' bodies to the controversial "Prisoner X."
"For 30 years we are hearing about the missing soldiers from the Battle of Sultan Youcoub, but it's not Zygier's fault they never found my brother and the other two men; it is the State's fault," Farhiya Heiman, the sister of Yehuda Katz, told Ynet.
"I am aware of the reports and I do not find there is reason to delve into the details too much," she added.
"The Supreme Court ruled my brother should not be pronounced as fallen in combat, but the State does little to provide the answers."
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