Revealed: 'Prisoner X' botched mission to recover Israeli servicemen's bodies


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The Independent Online

The latest chapter in the saga in the case of 'Prisoner X' - the former Mossad agent who killed himself in Israel's highest security prison - has revealed that he botched a mission to recover the bodies of three Israeli servicemen from Lebanon, a move that led to the imprisonment one of the Jewish state's prized security assets.

Israel has refused to speak about the case, which led to the Israeli-Australian spy, Ben Zygier, a 34 year old father of two daughters hanging himself in 2010, despite being held in Israel's most secure prison, and under 24 hour surveillance .

However, various reports have suggested that Zygier's talent did not match his ambition and that after a demotion from field operations to desk duties, he attempted to impress his bosses by turning a senior Hezbollah official. Instead, he was himself compromised and gave up the names of two of Israel's prized assets in Lebanon to the group, after being duped by an operative who had no intention of switching sides.

One of the men he exposed - Ziad al-Homsi - has now given an interview to Australia's ABC television, which initially broke the 'Prisoner X' story in February. He claims that he was asked by Israeli sources to uncover the location of the bodies of three Israeli servicemen killed during the 1982 Lebanon war.

"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. Yehuda Katz, Zvi Feldman and Zachary Baumel were paraded through the streets before being killed. The Mossad plan had been for al-Homsi to arrange for the bodies to exhumed and left where they could later be recovered by other agents. Their remains have never been found. Before being able to reveal location, al-Homsi was unmasked as double-agent working for the Mossad and sent to prison in Lebanon.

It is thought that Zygier was not involved with the detailed mission to find the bodies, but that his independent actions led to Mossad aborting the operation.

Zygier has been described as Israel's "biggest traitor," and his actions led to months of solitary confinement, which was kept so secret that even his jailors did not know his name. He was placed in the cell that had earlier been specifically built for Yigal Amir, the killer of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

If the latest chapter the case is true - his legal team and those at working at the prison have so far maintained their silence on the issue - it is unclear why the Israeli authorities considered his actions to be so grave and why his incarceration was such a closely guarded secret.

Recovering the bodies of servicemen killed in battle is taken seriously in Israel however, and the mission to recover the three who died in Lebanon may have been the last opportunity to bring their bodies back to Israel. Only six Israeli soldiers remain missing, despite Israel's many wars in its 65 year existence, according to ABC.