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Israel says no proof it carried out Hamas Dubai killing

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
Mr Lieberman said Israel never confirmed intelligence matters

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.

ANALYSIS
Jonathan Marcus
Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent
The operation was clinical. The hit-team successfully escaped Dubai. But they left telltale traces.

The false foreign passports used by the alleged team of secret agents have been identified and six of them are British. That is diplomatic problem number one.

Problem number two is identity theft. The passports used the names of real people, British citizens, with dual nationality, who happen to live in Israel, who had absolutely no knowledge of what was going on.

Nobody yet of course has any proof-positive as to who carried out the operation. There may be no "smoking gun".

Nonetheless what you might call the "smouldering passports" suggest that Israel has some questions to answer.

If Israel was indeed behind this assassination then some, even in Israel, may well suggest that they have scored a costly own goal.

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.

Two Palestinian suspects were being questioned about the murder. Police said they had "fled to Jordan" after the killing, without releasing their names.

Wigs and false beards

Officials in Dubai, who have issued arrest warrants, said the team appeared to be a professional hit squad, probably sponsored by a foreign power.

I am just scared, these are major forces
Stephen Hodes
Victim of identity theft

They released CCTV footage which they said showed some of the suspects in disguises, including wigs and false beards, in the hotel near Dubai's international airport.

The suspects allegedly trailed Mr Mabhouh when he arrived in Dubai from Syria, paid for everything in cash and used various mobile phones.

Some of the British-born Israelis whose names were on the passports used by the suspects have said they are shocked by the discovery.

"I don't know how they got my details, who took them," said Stephen Daniel Hodes, 37.

"I haven't left the country, I think, for two years and I've never been to Dubai ever.

"I don't know who's behind this. I am just scared, these are major forces," he said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for a "full investigation" into what happened.

Hamas killing

Police in Dubai have issued arrest warrants for 11 suspects they want to question about the killing of a senior Hamas official in Dubai. The suspects include six men travelling on false British passports.
Three other suspects, including one woman, were travelling on false Irish passports. Two further suspects had French and German papers. Dubai police say they appeared to be a professional hit-squad.
Dubai police say the suspects only spent a day in the country. Here two of them are seen arriving at a local shopping centre. Three others were filmed arriving at the same centre. The suspects did not make contact by phone.
Police allege that one of the suspects, pictured on the left pulling a trolley, went to a hotel to put on a disguise. He is seen entering a men's toilet and later left wearing a wig.
Their alleged victim, Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh is seen at the hotel reception, circled in red above. At the bottom of the image the head of one of the suspects can just be seen. As Mr Mabhouh leaves, the suspect follows.
Mr Mabhouh is followed into the lift by a number of the suspects, including two pictured here in tennis gear. It is thought he had been followed from Syria to Dubai where he wanted to buy weapons for Hamas.
When Mr Mabhouh leaves the lift, the police say he was followed by one of the suspects, who appeared to be trying to establish which room he was staying in. He was later killed in his room.
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SEE ALSO
UK inquiry into 'fake ID' murder
17 Feb 10 |  Middle East
Britons shocked by assassin claim
17 Feb 10 |  Middle East
Dubai suspects' passports 'faked'
16 Feb 10 |  Middle East
Dubai names Hamas 'killer team'
16 Feb 10 |  Middle East

FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
The Independent Death in Dubai: the plot thickens - 2 hrs ago
Los Angeles Times Use of citizens' identities in assassination roils Israel - 3 hrs ago
The Scotsman Britain demands Israel explains fake passports link to Hamas killing - 4 hrs ago
Irish Times Dubai passport numbers 'genuine' - 5 hrs ago
Washington PostIsrael says no proof it carried out Dubai killing - 5 hrs ago
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