Rafi Eitan, legendary Mossad agent who captured Eichmann, dies at 92

Rafi Eitan, the Mossad agent who headed the mission to abduct Adolf Eichmann and bring him to Israel in 1960 for prosecution, died on Saturday at the age of 92.

Rafael “Rafi” Eitan was known as Israel’s “master spy” and a living legend.

He served as an advisor on terrorism to Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and in 1981 he was appointed to head the Bureau of Scientific Relations, then an intelligence entity on par with Mossad, Aman, and Shabak.

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Eitan assumed responsibility for and resigned over the Jonathan Pollard affair, and the Bureau was disbanded.

Eitan was married to Miriam and had three children and grandchildren.

At age 12, engulfed in the prevalent Zionist sentiments of the day and to defend his settlement from Arab attacks, Eitan joined the Haganah from which he moved to the Palmach, the elite unit of the Haganah, upon completion of high school in 1944.

Through clandestine operations, he was to assist the illegal immigration of Jewish refugees from Europe, who were fleeing Nazism, into Palestine.

In 1944, when Eitan was 18, he joined the Palmach, the pre-state underground Jewish militia. While serving in the organization, Eitan participated in an operation to release Jewish immigrants from the Atlit detainee camp, which was run by the British Mandate.

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He also took part in the “Night of the Bridges,” also known as Operation Markolet. The operation’s aim was to destroy 11 bridges linking Mandatory Palestine to the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, and Egypt, in order to suspend the transportation routes used by the British army.

In 1946, Eitan killed two German Templars in order to deter members of the movement, which considered itself an affiliate of the Nazi party, from returning to Israel.

During the 1948 War of Independence, Eitan participated in many fights and was gravely wounded. Upon his release from the army, he joined the Shin Bet security service, where he quickly rose up the ranks.

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Eitan served as Chief of Coordination between Shin Bet and Mossad. This position would allow him the biggest triumph in a post-Holocaust Israel: the capture of Adolf Eichmann.

In a daring mission, after much intelligence research recognized Adolf Eichmann alive and well, and living in Argentina, Eitan and his team went to Argentina to kidnap and take him to Israel, where he was tried and found guilty of atrocious crimes against the Jewish people during World War II. During the process of capturing Eichmann, Eitan personally vetoed the capture of Josef Mengele, who was under Mossad surveillance, arguing that the eventual loss of focus could jeopardize the Eichmann mission.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded Saturday evening to the news of Eitan’s passing, stating that he and his wife Sara “are grieving alongside the entire people of Israel over the death of our beloved Rafi Eitan.”

“Eitan,” Netanyahu added, “was one of the heroes of Israel’s intelligence services… over the years he took part in public life, was a government minister and acted to retrieve Jewish property that was taken from Jews during the Holocaust.”

President Reuven Rivlin said that Israel “lost a brave fighter… Rafi was a fighter in his soul, he stuck to his mission and to his truth. We bow our heads in sorrow and say goodbye with deep gratitude for everything he has done for the people and for the state.”