AN Australian emigrant and disgraced Mossad spy who died in an Israeli jail in 2010 was arrested after interfering in an Israeli intelligence operation to recover the bodies of soldiers killed in the 1982 Lebanon war.
Ben Zygier was arrested in January 2010 and held under the name of Prisoner X in secret on unspecified charges. A judicial inquiry in Israel found Zygier, 34, hanged himself in his cell.
Australian state television yesterday said Zygier unwittingly sabotaged a 2007 Mossad mission to exhume the bodies of three Israeli tank crew captured and killed by Syrian forces during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.
It quoted a former commander in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley as saying Zygier had revealed his name and that of a Lebanese agent for Israel to Lebanese intelligence.
Ziad al-Homsi, former mayor of a Lebanese village, said he had been approached by Mossad in 2007 and flown to China on the pretext of attending a mayors’ convention. He was introduced to a Syrian who said his brother was working to return the bodies of the three Israelis captured at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub – Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman.
Al-Homsi said he was eventually told by others involved that the missing men were buried in Lebanon. The mission failed, al-Homsi said, after he was arrested on 16 May, 2009, by Lebanese special forces and later jailed for 15 years for spying for Mossad. He served three years.
Zygier’s crime was to inadvertently reveal al-Homsi’s identity to a Lebanese man he was trying to turn into a double agent, but who worked for Lebanese intelligence, broadcaster ABC said.
Zygier was trying to turn around a fading career with Mossad, to which he had been recruited in 2004 after taking Israeli citizenship in the 1990s. Last month it was reported that Zygier had believed the man was close to Hezbollah militants.
The plan, said ABC, went wrong when Zygier tried to prove his credentials by naming al-Homsi and another Lebanese agent for Israel named as Mustafa Ali Awadeh, forcing Mossad to abandon the mission.