Her hopes have risen after a new round of negotiations involving Israel and the Syrian-backed Hizb Allah as part of a prisoner exchange deal.

  

"The head of (Israel's overseas intelligence agency) Mossad, Meir Dagan, has assured me that the German mediator will raise the subject as part of the second phase of the agreement," said Nadia Cohen, whose late husband Elie is widely regarded as Israel's "greatest spy".

 

Overtures

  

Nadia Cohen is hoping to capitalise on the recent German-brokered exchange of prisoners and bodies between Israel and Lebanon's Hizb Allah group, and on recent overtures by Syrian President Bashar al-Asad toward resuming peace talks with Israel.

  

A second phase of exchanges could take place in the next few months if Israel is given "substantial" information about the fate of navigator Ron Arad, who was shot down over southern Lebanon in 1982.

  

Elie Cohen was born in the Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt in 1924 and moved to Israel in 1957. He was recruited by Israel's intelligence service Mossad, and given the job of infiltrating the Syrian political elite in the 1960s.

  

After his cover was broken, he was tried by a military court and condemned to be hanged in public in Damascus. Syria has since refused to return his body to Israel.