The Mystery of Ashraf Marwan: Murder or Accident? Traitor or Hero?

Despite having gone unnoticed by Egypt’s presidents as a spy, Ashraf Marwan’s death in June 2007 caught the attention of many others. After a five-story fall from his apartment balcony into a garden near Piccadilly Circus in London, where authorities initially wrote Marwan’s death off as a suicide. However, some believe that Marwan was murdered. The motive?  Perhaps an act of revenge against the Egyptian billionaire’s betrayal of his country, or a deliberate push by hit men hired to dispose of a spy. The truth remains hidden.

For almost three decades, using the code-name “the Angel,” Marwan served as a spy for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. Uri Bar-Joseph’s “The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel” (HarperCollins) delves into Marwan’s background. An aide to Egyptian presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, Marwan also married Nasser’s daughter, Mona, making him the president’s son-in-law. These two factors gave “the Angel” access to extremely valuable information, even national secrets — information that would end up in the hands of the then Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir. Marwan provided detailed Egyptian war plans and accounts of Soviet transactions for weapons. When President Sadat decided to wage war against Israel, Marwan’s intelligence prevented an Israeli defeat. Initially, Israel’s Defense Force doubted his information, which resulted in Israel being taken by surprise at Yom Kippur. However, Marwan’s last-minute warning ultimately allowed Israel to mobilize its troops a mere six hours before Egypt’s planned attack.

While some accuse Marwan of being a double agent, claiming the spy delivered misinformation about the surprise attack, and thus aided Egypt, Bar-Joseph devotes a lengthy section in his book to debunking this argument. He exposes Eli Zeira, Israel’s then director of military intelligence, and a man known to be skeptical of Marwan, as the main reason why Israel did not act sooner.

In a futile attempt to bury the country’s national embarrassment, Egypt lauded Marwan as a national hero after his death, despite his being well-known as a traitor, according to Mark Mazzetti who reviewed The Angel”for  the New York Times Sunday Book Review. However, the mystery surrounding Marwan’s death still remains. The link to the Times review is below:

Ashraf Marwan(Photograph credit: From the New York Times, Maher Attar/Sygma via Getty Images )

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