Dubai adds more suspects to hit squad
JASON KOUTSOUKIS HERALD CORRESPONDENTFebruary 19, 2010
JERUSALEM: Dubai police were searching last night for another six people alleged to have been involved in the assassination of top Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh last month.
The new search brings the total number of people involved in the killing to 17. Police released photographs of the 11 initial suspects earlier this week. They are widely believed to have been working for Israel's security agency, Mossad.
Of the 11 suspects already identified, six were carrying fake British passports, with details matching those of British citizens living in Israel, sparking a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. The other suspects were carrying fake passports from Ireland, France and Germany.
All of the British passport holders whose identities were stolen live in Israel, meaning Mossad would have had ready access to copies of their travel documents.
Britain is believed to be considering severing its intelligence-sharing agreement with Israel if Mossad agents are proved to have stolen the identities of the British passport holders.
The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, ordered an investigation into the use of the British passports, and the Foreign Office called in Israel's ambassador to to ask whether Israel was behind the killing.
''We have got to carry out a full investigation into this,'' Mr Brown said. ''Evidence must be gathered concerning what occurred and how they succeeded in doing it. However, until we understand what happened, we must not come out with statements.''
Israel's ambassador to Dublin, Tzion Evroni, has also been summoned to Ireland's Foreign Office.
Israel's Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem has so far declined to comment on the summoning of the ambassadors, and Israel has refused to either confirm or deny any connection to the assassination in Dubai.
Israeli authorities have so far tried to play down the long-term impact of the affair on Israeli-British relations, but Yoel Hasson, a former deputy director of Israel's domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, has called for an inquiry into the affair.
Addressing a rally in the northern Gaza Strip via a satellite from Damascus, the Hamas political leader, Khaled Meshal, called on the European countries whose passports were used to place Israel at the top of the list of terrorists and punish its leaders.
In Damascus, where Hamas has established its political headquarters, a senior Hamas security figure was under arrest on suspicion of having helped the alleged Israeli hit squad identify Mabhouh before he was assassinated.
The political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, denied the allegation. ''It is not correct at all,'' he said. Hamas sources suggested a disinformation campaign being conducted by its rival, Fatah.
But informed Palestinian sources insisted the Hamas security leader was being questioned. It came amid mounting speculation that potentially senior Palestinian defectors may have assisted in the plot.
Mabhouh, a senior Hamas operative who co-ordinated the flow of arms from Iran to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, was found dead in his Dubai hotel room on January 20.
Authorities at first believed he had died of natural causes, but subsequent autopsy tests indicated he was either poisoned or suffocated.