Mossad in Minsk

Agents on hand to protect former Mossad chief after surgery location revealed

Meir Dagan / AP
October 22, 2012

JERUSALEM – Mossad operatives have converged on Minsk, capital of Belarus, to prevent attempts by Iran or Hezbollah on the life of their former nemesis, ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who is recovering from a liver transplant in a hospital there.

Concern over Dagan’s fate, already high because of the risky operation, increased sharply after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko last week revealed the hospitalization of the Israeli in his country. Lukashenko bragged at a press conference that Dagan had come to Belarus for treatment after medical institutions in the U.S., Germany, and Sweden refused to operate on the former spymaster.

Israeli sources said the only reason he had come to Belarus was the availability of a donor organ. His condition after the operation was variously reported last week as "serious but stable" and as "improving." Dagan was reportedly sedated so his body could adjust to the transplanted organ.

Lukashenko’s announcement was seen in Israel as a major security breach, ripping away Dagan’s anonymity and making him a potential target for Iranian and Hezbollah hit men, whose masters have a long score to settle with him. The Sunday Times in the United Kingdom reported yesterday that the Mossad had sent enough agents to Minsk "not only to defend the hospital but the entire city."

Having left the Mossad less than two years ago after eight years at its helm, Dagan is privy to Israel’s most sensitive secrets. He had a major impact on the debate in Israel over whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities when after his retirement he termed the idea "stupid."

Dagan has been at the top of Hezbollah’s wanted list since the assassination in Damascus in 2008 of its top security official, Imad Mughniyeh, by an explosive device placed in his car’s headrest. Iran knows Dagan as the man behind the sabotage of its nuclear program through the injection of viruses into the computer system and through the assassination of leading nuclear physicists on Tehran’s streets.

The 67-year-old Dagan had reportedly been fighting liver cancer. He was in New York last month, Israeli sources said, for a checkup at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Almost two weeks ago he flew to Minsk with his family for surgery.