Friday, February 19, 2010

Israeli Intelligence Assassinates Palestinian Leader in Dubai

Thursday, February 18, 2010
21:18 Mecca time, 18:18 GMT

Interpol alert over Dubai suspects

Dubai police named 11 people suspected of involvement in the killing of a Hamas official

Interpol, the international police agency, has placed 11 members of an alleged hit squad suspected of assassinating Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas commander, at a luxury Dubai hotel last month, on its most-wanted list.

Interpol issued the red notices, its highest-level alert, on Thursday on the request of Dubai authorities.

Interpol said it had reason to believe the suspects had stolen the identities of real people, using them as aliases to commit the murder.

Interpol's "red notices" are not international arrest warrants but are put out after national authorities issue a warrant to help with finding suspects so they can be arrested or extradited.

'Israeli role'

In this case, the red notices were requested by Dubai police and Interpol's bureau in Abu Dhabi, the international police organisation said on its website

Earlier on Thursday, Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai's police chief, said he believed Israeli agents, using British, French, German and Irish passports, were behind the killing on January 19.

The National, an Abu Dhabi government-owned newspaper, quoted Tamim as saying that the investigation into the killing "reveal[s] that Mossad [Israel's security service] is involved in the murder".

Tamim told the publication's website on Thursday that he "is 99 per cent, if not 100 per cent, that Mossad is standing behind the murder".

Police in Dubai have already released closed-circuit television footage of 11 individuals believed to have been involved in the killing of al-Mabhouh at the Al-Bustan hotel.

Tamim told Al-Bayan, another UAE newspaper based in Dubai, that "Dubai police has more evidence, apart from the tapes and photos that were revealed earlier".

"The coming days will carry more surprises which will leave no room for doubt," he said.

UK 'outrage'

Israeli silence on the killing was broken on Wednesday by Avigdor Lieberman, the country's foreign minister, who said that "there is no reason to think that it was the Israeli Mossad, and not some other intelligence service or country up to some mischief".

However, he also said that Israel maintains a "policy of ambiguity" on intelligence matters.

London, Paris and Dublin have all demanded explanations from Israel as to why passport details of their citizens had been used by the suspected hit squad.

Britain summoned Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to London, for a meeting with Peter Ricketts, who heads its diplomatic service, to explain how several UK citizens living in Israel found their passport details had been used by the alleged killers.

David Miliband, the British foreign minister, described the use of six British passports as an "outrage".

Miliband said Ricketts had made clear "how seriously we take any suggestion of fraudulent use of British passports" and sought Israeli assistance.

"We hope and expect they will co-operate fully with the investigation that has been launched by the prime minister [Gordon Brown]," said Miliband, adding that he hoped to discuss the issue further with Lieberman, when both men meet in Brussels on Monday.

Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency is to lead an investigation into the matter in close co-operation with the Emirati authorities.

Paris also demanded that Israel explain how an apparently forged French passport had been used by the suspected assassins.

"We are asking for explanations from Israel's embassy in France over the circumstances of the use of a fake French passport in the assassination of a Hamas member in Dubai," said the country's foreign ministry.

Dublin followed suit, calling in the Israeli ambassador to grill him about how the suspects had used passport details of three Irish citizens, one of whom has never visited Israel.

Hamas accusations

Sources within Hamas, which has already blamed Israel for being behind the killing, have also accused members of a rival Palestinian faction of helping Israel to kill al-Mabhouh.

The sources accused members of Fatah party, headed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, of aiding the murder.

In the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territory run by Hamas, anger spilled onto the streets on Wednesday with thousands of people gathering at a rally vowing to avengethe death of al-Mabhouh.

Al-Mabhouh was a senior commander and one of the founders of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas'armed wing.

Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' leader and himself a victim of an attempted Israeli assassination, pointed the finger of blame squarely at Mossad.

"The time for promises and talk of revenge is done. Now is the time for action," he said, addressing the Gaza rally via video from Damascus, where he is based.

Israeli media has seen mixed reactions, with some praising al-Mabhouh's death, and others criticising a sloppy operation.

A front-page commentary in the daily newspaper Haaretz called for Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, to be removed from office.

But a source close to Dagan told the Reuters news agency that the intelligence chief has no intention to resignbefore the end of his term later this year.

For Dagan to resign on the heels of a political row over al-Mabhouh's death would be to admit having had a role in it, the source said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Last update - 20:26 18/02/2010

Germany, France also request Israeli answers on Dubai fake passports

By Barak Ravid, Danna Harman and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies

Report: Suspected killers of Hamas commander in Dubai used U.S.-issued credit cards during operation.

Germany joined France, Britain, and Ireland on Thursday in demanding Israel to provide any information it had which might help explain the circumstances surrounding the death of a top Hamas official in Dubai.

The request was made by the Foreign Ministry's Middle East envoy, Andreas Michaelis, during a meeting with Emmanuel Nahshon, counselor at the Israeli embassy in Berlin.

The meeting came after authorities in Dubai said they were nearly certain Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, was behind the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a luxury hotel in the city-state on January 20. One French and one German passport were used by the suspected assailants.

"In view of the information available so far, I believe it is imperative to explain the circumstances surrounding the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

"Germany will do everything it can to contribute to resolving the matter," he added.

Germany's announcement came after France asked earlier that Israel explain how a forged French passport came to be used by the alleged assassins.

"We are asking for explanations from Israel's embassy in France over the circumstances of the use of a fake French passport in the assassination of a Hamas member in Dubai," the Foreign Ministry said in an electronic news briefing.

Meanwhile, the web of countries allegedly involved in the January assassination of Hamas strongman Mahmoud al-Mabhouh continues to grow as the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Dubai authorities are looking into five U.S.-issued credit card accounts suspected to have been used by the alleged assassins.

The cards, according to the Wall Street Journal report, issued by U.S. banks, were used by the suspected assassins to buy plane tickets connected to the operation, as well as other travel related items.

Earlier Thursday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband demanded Israel's full cooperation in investigating of the fraudulent use of U.K. passport by the killers of a Hamas official in Dubai.

Israel's ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, met with Sir Peter Ricketts, head of the British diplomatic service, on Thursday after London asked him to clarify what it called an "identity theft" in which the passports of six British Israelis were used by assassins.

"The permanent secretary (Ricketts) said we wanted to give Israel every opportunity to share with us what it knows about this incident," Miliband told British television.

"We hope and expect they will cooperate fully with the investigation that has been launched by the prime minister [Gordon Brown]," he said.

He said he hoped to discuss the issue further with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman when both men were in Brussels on Monday.

A hit squad that killed senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room in January apparently forged travel documents bearing the names of the Britons, who all live in Israel.

"Following an invitation yesterday evening, I met today with Sir Peter Ricketts, Permanent Under Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office," Prosor said following the lunchtime meeting.

"Whilst of course happy to cooperate with Sir Peter's request, I was unable to shed any further light on the events in question," Prosor continued.

"In keeping with standard diplomatic practice, it would be improper to disclose the content of such bilateral discussions between our countries."

Prosor added: "In accordance with accepted diplomatic protocol, it would be unfitting to reveal the content of the talks conducted between the countries."

Although Jerusalem has not taken responsibility for the January 20 hit on Mabhouh, the incident seems to have spawned a serious diplomatic rift between Israel and the United Kingdom.

Israel's ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, Zion Evroni, said Wednesday that he too had received a summons from the country's Department of Foreign Affairs and would be meet Minister Michael Martin on Thursday.

In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry officials declined to comment on the matter, but an Israeli diplomat said on condition of anonymity that the government has decided to withhold a public statement until the British message is received, and would then choose how to respond.

Israeli officials expressed concern Wednesday that the affair could seriously harm ties between Jerusalem and London. They said the British and Irish summonses could lead to similar steps on the part of France and Germany, other countries whose passports the assailants carried in Dubai.

One Israeli official said the Irish government had already contacted Britain, Germany and France to recommend they conduct a joint investigation into the incident.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised Wednesday that his government would launch an inquiry into the use of the British passports in the operation, but did not cast blame over the alleged forgeries.

"The defrauding of British passports is a very serious issue," a statement from the Foreign Office released Wednesday read. "The government will continue to take all the action that is necessary to protect British nationals from identity fraud."

"The government is involved in a number of strands of ongoing activity in relation to this specific case," the statement said. It cited three specific areas of activity: offering bureaucratic assistance to the affected British citizens living in Israel, investigating the matter fully and summoning the Israeli ambassador for clarification.

"The Serious Organised Crime Agency will lead this investigation, in close cooperation with the Emirati authorities," the Foreign Office said.

Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs released a statement indicating, "the identities of the persons recorded on the forged passports do not correspond to those recorded on the valid passports carrying the same numbers."

Emirati police said the team left Dubai several hours after the operation - some individually and others in pairs - for destinations in Europe, Asia and Africa.

At a memorial rally for Mabhouh in Gaza Wednesday, leaders of Hamas' armed wing said the group "will never rest until they reach his killers".

Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal addressed the rally of several thousand by video link from Damascus.

"We call on European countries to punish Israel's leaders for violating laws," he said. "Israel deserves to be placed on the terror list."

Last update - 02:29 19/02/2010

Israel believes Dubai passport row won't cause major crisis

By Avi Issacharoff, Barak Ravid, Danna Harman, Fadi Eyadat

Government officials estimate affair will pass unless new evidence emerges implicating Israel.

Israel's government believes that a row over forged French, British, German and Irish passports used by the suspected assassins of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai is not likely to develop into a major diplomatic crisis.

Mabhouh was found dead in a Dubai hotel room in January, and the tiny emirate has named 11 people it believes carried out the killing. Charges that Israel's Mossad spy agency was behind the assassination have been strengthened in recent days by revelations that seven of the suspects entered Dubai on British passports bearing the names of British-born Israelis.

"At this stage, there is no evidence linking Israel to the incident, and if that continues, the affair will subside quickly," one senior Israeli official predicted. Nevertheless, he added, Israeli diplomats and intelligence personnel will hold additional conversations about the case with their British counterparts over the next few days.

Dubai police have accused Mossad of being behind the assassination, which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has declined to confirm or deny, citing Israel's policy of ambiguity on such matters.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal, citing sources in the United Arab Emirates, has reported that five of the suspects used credit cards issued by an American bank to buy plane tickets, among other outlays. However, the U.S. State Department has not yet demanded any clarifications from Israel, unlike the four European countries whose passports were forged by the assassins.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem is trying to cope with the diplomatic fallout. But though the Israeli ambassadors in both London and Dublin were summoned for clarification meetings Thursday, and France and Germany have also asked Israel for any information it has about who was behind the forged passports.

The Israeli citizens who identities were stolen are also still trying to deal with the fallout. One of them, Melvyn Adam Mildiner of Beit Shemesh, has been hiding at home since the news broke, and his wife said that their children are feeling very pressured, bewildered by the sudden interest in their father.

Another, Paul Keeley, decided to leave his home on Kibbutz Nachsholim for a few days and visit relatives in the center of the country in order to escape the journalists who have been besieging him for the past two days.

On Thursday, when one journalist entered the kibbutz and asked for Keeley's house, an angry resident responded, "leave him alone. Give the poor man a little quiet."

A friend said that Keeley's father still lives in England, and that is how he found out that his identity had been used - when his father read it in the paper.

"I understand that he [Paul] is now afraid to leave the country," the friend added.

"I've heard that Paul is planning to sue the state, and rightly so," said another kibbutz member. "How can it be that a person sits at home, lives only to support his family, and they accuse him of an assassination overseas? We on the kibbutz all laughed over it, but for Paul, it's a nightmare.

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