Israel mourns the former agent of the Mossad Rafi Eitan, who in 1960 commanded to arrest the Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann commanded. Eitan died on Saturday at the age of 92 at the Ischilow Hospital in Tel Aviv, as reported by Israeli radio.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Eitan as "one of the heroes of the Israeli intelligence service", which has rendered exceptional security services to the country in numerous cases. President Rivlin called Eitan a "born fighter" and declared, "We bow to him."
Mossad foreign intelligence service honored Eitan in one of its rare announcements: Eitan was "a supporter of the intelligence community in general and of the Mossad in particular," said Mossad boss Jossi Cohen.
Born in November 1926 in a kibbutz in what was then the British mandate of Palestine, Eitan became a spy for the Mossad in the 50's and settled there to become head of the commandos. In 1960 he commanded the famous mission that led to Eichmann's arrest in Buenos Aires.
The former SS-Obersturmbannführer Eichmann was in 1939 in the main security office of the Reich responsible for the deportation of European Jews to the Nazi death camps. After the war, the secretary of the Wannsee Conference fled from a US detention center.
The Mossad finally tracked him down to the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, and took him away Israel, There he was executed after a nine-month trial in May 1962.
The then secret service chief Isser Harel had wished then that the Mossad team, with the exception of Eichmann, would also take the concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele, as it became known later. Eitan, however, was against it. "I didn't want to do two operations simultaneously," Eitan said later.
Mengele escaped him
As a compromise solution, Eitan remained to monitor Mengeles in Argentina, while the other members of the Mossad Eichmann team brought an El-Al machine with Israel. "Mengele was not at home and neighbors said they would be back in a week," Eitan said. "We waited a week, but in the meantime the news of his capture (Eichmann) went around the world, and Mengele never returned to his apartment in Buenos Aires". Mengele was never captured.
The name Eitan is also associated with a serious crisis of confidence between Israel and the United States: Eitan was responsible for the US naval expert Jonathan Pollard, who spied on Israel and was arrested in 1985. Pollard was in jail in the United States by 30 years and the FBI had also issued a warrant to arrest Eitan.
In 2006, at the age of 79, Eitan was elected to the Israeli Parliament and became president of the Pensioners' Party before becoming Minister of Elders. At that time he said he had had a heart operation a year earlier. "I don't see anything and I don't feel anything, but I walk every morning, I make sculptures and my wife says I'm fine," he said at the time.