February 17, 2010 in News
Israel stops short of Dubai assassination denial (abc.net.au):
Israel’s foreign minister has stopped short of denying his country’s involvement in the assassination of a Palestinian militant commander in Dubai.
Dubai authorities are seeking 11 people with European passports who are believed to have been involved in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
Mabhouh, who was found dead in his hotel room, is reported to have been in Dubai to source weapons for the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.
Israel’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny allegations that its spy agency, Mossad, has been involved in assassinations.
Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman says there is no evidence Mossad was behind Mabhouh’s murder.
But many Israelis appear to believe otherwise, with some newspaper commentators calling the murder a tactical success and strategic failure.
One commentator has even called for Mossad chief Meir Dagan to be sacked.
Meanwhile British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for a full investigation into how apparently fake British passports were used by the alleged killers last month.
The six Britons who share names with the suspects deny any involvement.
One says he went to bed with pneumonia and woke up a murderer.
“The evidence has got to be assembled about what actually happened, about how it happened and why it happened,” Mr Brown said.
Israel says no proof it carried out Hamas Dubai killing (BBC News):
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said there is no proof the Mossad spy agency carried out the killing of a Hamas commander in Dubai.
But he did not fully deny that Israel carried out the killing, citing its “policy of ambiguity” on such matters.
Dubai believes 11 “agents with European passports” killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
Seven foreign-born Israelis named as suspects say their identities were stolen and they were not involved. UK passports used were said to be fake.
France, Germany and the Irish Republic also said they believed the passports from their countries used by the alleged killers were false.
Britain has summoned the Israeli ambassador to the Foreign Office on Thursday, to discuss the use of fraudulent British passports by the alleged assassins.
‘Israel never confirms’
Hamas has accused Israeli agents of murdering their operative – a view shared by many commentators because Mossad has in the past used forged foreign passports in its operations.
But in Israel’s first official comments on the affair, Mr Lieberman said there was no reason to blame Israel and Mossad.
“I don’t know why we are assuming that Israel, or the Mossad, used those passports,” he told Army Radio.
“There is no reason to think that it was the Israeli Mossad, and not some other intelligence service or country up to some mischief.”
He did not outright deny Israeli involvement.
“Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies,” he said. “There is no reason for Israel to change this policy.”
A former officer with the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, said the killing “looks like an Israeli operation”.
But Gad Shimron added: “I believe it will never be officially confirmed by any Israeli government.”
Mr Mabhouh was murdered in his hotel room in Dubai on 20 January.
Reports have suggested he was in Dubai to buy weapons for the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas.
Britain summons Israeli ambassador to meeting over Dubai killing (Times Online):
Britain has summoned Israel’s ambassador to a meeting at the Foreign Office to discuss the use of fake UK passports by suspected assassins of a top Hamas figure in Dubai, it emerged tonight.
The development marks the latest stage of the escalating fallout, which has seen the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) being brought in to investigate the use of the documents in the operation leading to the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
One Whitehall official told The Times: “The evidence so far makes very bad reading but until we can get all the facts about exactly what happened, we won’t be in a position to decide what action to take. We have to be clear about the facts before we slag people off.”
After Soca confirmed that it was holding its investigation tonight, the FCO said it had asked Israel’s ambassador to a meeting. “Given the links to Israel of a number the British nationals affected, there will be a meeting between the FCO Permanent Under Secretary and the Israeli ambassador tomorrow,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.
Two Palestinian suspects were being questioned about the murder. Police said they had “fled to Jordan” after the killing, without releasing their names.
Hamas chief assassination suspects deny they’re trained killers (news.com.au):
SIX Britons thrust into the centre of an international murder plot are fearing for their lives.
They were named as the killers of Mahmud al-Mabhuh, a leading official of the Palestinian paramilitary group Hamas.
He was found dead in Dubai last month after an audacious “hit” bearing all the hallmarks of a John Le Carre spy novel.
Yet it has emerged that their identities, and those of five others from Ireland, Germany and France, had been stolen by the real assassins, who are believed to be agents of the Israeli secret service Mossad.
Contacted in Israel – where most, if not all, of the men and one woman named live – some said the first they knew about the attack in Dubai was from newspaper reports.
They said their dual national passports had been cloned by the killers, whose own photographs had been inserted.
Israeli-British citizen Paul John Keeley said he had been “walking around like a zombie” since he realised that his identity and name had been revealed.
“I woke up this morning and suddenly my life is like an espionage movie. It is all very worrying but I know I have not done anything wrong,” he was quoted as saying by Britain’s Daily Mail.
“I have not left Israel for two years and I certainly have not been to Dubai recently.”
The wife of Stephen Hodes, another British-Israeli and a physiotherapist living west of Jerusalem, echoed the sentiment, saying: “It started like a story that made us laugh, but now we don’t know how to take it.”
Briton Michael Barney, 54, said he was shocked. “I got home from work and the kids said, ‘Have you seen the newspaper?’,” Mr Barney said.
“I looked for my passport straight away but it was still there. It’s terrifying – my picture is being beamed around the world and I’m being called a terrorist.”
Three members of the assassination gang used fake Irish passports, which officials in Dublin said yesterday were obvious forgeries. The photographs showed the holders wearing glasses, which is not allowed, and also had incorrect numbers and letters.
Several of the passport photos showed the holders smiling, which is banned in the UK and Ireland.
However, the forged documents were sufficiently convincing to get the killers through Dubai’s border controls.
The gang that carried out the hit was captured on a series of CCTV images but did not attract the suspicion of the authorities despite using a series of almost comical disguises.
Britain has invited Israel’s ambassador to the Foreign Office to discuss the use of the fake British passports.
“The defrauding of British passports is a very serious issue. The government will continue to take all the action that is necessary to protect British nationals from identity fraud,” said a British government spokesman.
Dubai murder: The British-Israelis who had their identities stolen (guardian.co.uk):
The seven Israelis with dual foreign citizenship caught up in a major international investigation into the assassination of a Hamas commander do not appear connected: they live in different parts of Israel and none appears to have visited Dubai.
None have had their passports stolen, but all have had their identities stolen. Since discovering their names on a most-wanted list they have spoken out about their anger, frustration and fear.
Stephen Hodes, a British-Israeli living in Ramat Beit Shemesh, said he was deeply concerned. “I’m shocked. I don’t know how they got to me,” he told Israel Radio. Like the others, he said the photograph beside his name in the suspect’s forged passport was not him. “Those aren’t my photographs, of course. I don’t know how they got to my details, who took them … I’m simply afraid. These are powerful forces.” He had not left Israel for two years, he said, and had never visited Dubai.
Another British-Israeli, Paul Keeley, 43, who lives on Kibbutz Nahsholim, in northern Israel, said he too was scared. “I’m in absolute and total shock,” he told the Ma’ariv newspaper. “The whole world is asking whether that’s me, what I am, who I am. I’m a home renovator who earns his living in and around Nahsholim. What do they want from me?”
His passport had not been stolen and he had not left the country, he said. “It wasn’t lost. It’s in my hand. I’m holding it. They simply stole my identity … I don’t even know from whom I’m supposed to get answers and if anyone will bother at all to give me an official explanation of what happened.
“One thing is clear to me: I never left the country,” he said. “From the moment I heard about it I was very worried. I’m worried for my family.”
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