'Prisoner X' sabotaged Israeli spy mission to retrieve bodies
Zygier exposed informer, forcing Mossad to axe plan to retrieve soldiers' remains, says report
Australian-Israeli Mossad agent Ben Zygier unwittingly sabotaged a top secret spy operation aimed at bringing home the bodies of Israeli soldiers missing in Lebanon, a report said yesterday.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which broke the story in February of Zygier's arrest, detention and suicide in a Tel Aviv jail, said his recklessness forced Mossad to abort the sophisticated mission.
The Israeli government went to extreme lengths to cover up the existence of Zygier, known as "Prisoner X", and the reason for his imprisonment.
ABC said Israel gagged his existence due to the sensitive nature of the operation he compromised.
The mission would have meant closure to a 30-year campaign for the return of the remains of three tank crewmen who were captured and killed by Syrian forces during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, it said.
Recovering soldiers' remains was important to Israel, with only six still missing from all the conflicts it had been involved in, the report said.
The broadcaster interviewed Ziad Al Homsi, a former mayor of a Lebanese village, who said he had been approached by Mossad in 2007 and flown to China on the pretext of attending a mayoral convention.
In Beijing he was contacted by a Syrian named George Attar, who claimed his brother in Europe was working to return the remains of missing Israeli solders. Al Homsi said he suspected Mossad was involved, which was confirmed over five trips to Thailand to meet other operatives.
"After one year of meeting with them, at the last meeting they informed me about the location of the corpses, exactly where they were," he said.
The agents wanted Al Homsi to arrange to dig up the remains and leave them for someone else.
But before this happened, the mission was exposed after Lebanese intelligence sources were told Al Homsi was an informer.
The broadcaster said Zygier, was responsible for blowing his cover. It said that in 2008 he was desperate to please his spy masters at Mossad and embarked upon a rogue mission to make contact with a Hezbollah agent.
His aim was to recruit the Lebanese man as a double agent but to prove his Mossad credentials Zygier handed over the name of Al Homsi.
Al Homsi was arrested by Lebanese special forces and accused of spying for Mossad. He was jailed for 15 years but released after three.