Ambassador shrugs off fears over Mossad ex-chief's safety
Israeli Ambassador Yosef Shagal has described as "lies and speculation" reports that Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent revelation that Meir Dagan is undergoing treatment in Belarus has put the life of the former chief of Israel's intelligence agency Mossad in danger.
Speaking to reporters in Minsk on Monday, the Soviet-born ambassador said that Mr. Dagan had arrived in Belarus in company with security guards and was also guarded by Belarusian security services. "Let me assure you that cooperation between such security services guarantees security to any citizen, the more so as it is on the territory of Belarus," Mr. Shagal said. "There is no and may be no threat to his safety."
The ambassador confirmed that Mr. Dagan had been operated on by a French surgeon. "But he carried out the [surgery] together with Belarusian doctors using Belarusian equipment and expressed a high opinion of the skills of the Belarusian doctors," he said.
According to Mr. Shagal, the former spy chief is recovering after the liver transplant in the company of his wife and daughter and may leave Belarus in a week.
The ambassador said that Mr. Dagan had chosen Belarus for his treatment due to good relations between the two countries. "I won't say what channels were used. The main thing is that it helped save a human life. Belarus helped Israel, we are grateful and will repay it," he said.
Mr. Dagan, who had been diagnosed with liver cancer, underwent the transplant surgery at the Minsk-based National Center for Organ and Tissue Transplantation earlier this month.
"Only in Belarus they agreed to operate on him. America refused to and so did Germany and Sweden. But all of them recommended turning to Aleh Rumo," Mr. Lukashenka said at a news conference on October 16, referring to the head of the transplantation center.
Members of Mr. Dagan’s family denied Mr. Lukashenka's allegations, stating that the former spy chief had never approached Sweden for a new liver, and that he only chose Belarus because he would have had to endure a lengthy wait in both Germany and the US.
Newspapers reported that Mr. Dagan, 67, could not receive a new liver in his home country because Israeli health regulations set 65 as the maximum age for a liver transplant.
Meanwhile, Mr. Dagan’s associates reportedly fear that his safety was compromised by Mr. Lukashenka's announcement, and that the former spy chief could now be targeted by Hezbollah, Syria, or Iran. They added that Israel may demand increased security on the hospital.
The transplant surgery was reportedly performed by Daniel Azoulay of the Paris transplant center, who was assisted by senior Israeli doctors.