Hamas Killing Adds Tension to Europe-6srael Ties; Dubai: 99% M6ssad behind It
18/02/2010 At a time Dubai insists that the European passports used by the killers of a top Hamas leader in a hotel room of the Gulf emirate were not fakes, Israeli-European ties seem to be in trouble as UK and Ireland summoned the Israeli envoys demanding clarification over this issue.
The National newspaper reported on Thursday that Dubai police chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan said he was 99 percent sure Israel's Mossad intelligence service was behind the murder of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. "Our investigations reveal that Mossad is involved in the murder of Mabhuh. It is 99 percent, if not 100 percent that Mossad is standing behind the murder," the Abu Dhabi-based English-language daily quoted Khalfan as saying.
Al-Bayan newspaper also reported that Dubai police insist the European passports were not fakes. "Dubai police has more evidence, apart from the tapes and photos that were revealed earlier," Khalfan said, quoted in Al-Bayan. "The coming days will carry more surprises which will leave no room for doubt."
He insisted the European passports used by the team which allegedly killed Mahmud al-Mabhouh last month were not fakes and that Dubai immigration officers were "trained" by European security experts to spot such documents.
"This training qualifies immigration officers to spot fake passports. They applied these procedures at Dubai airport when the alleged (killers) entered the country," he said. "No forgery was found in those passports."
He described the alleged assassins of Mabhouh, a top commander of the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement Hamas, as "stupid" because their moves were "traced second-by-second" by security cameras.
With Dubai police's disclosure of the names and photos of the alleged hit team, fingers have been pointed at Israel's spy agency Mossad and its agents accused of using fake passports of European citizens.
Six British passport holders, three Irish, including a woman, a German and a man with a French passport made up the alleged hit team.
Britain summoned the Israeli ambassador on Thursday to discuss the use of identities apparently stolen from six British citizens living in the Zionist entity, the British government said.
A British diplomat told Haaretz that Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor is expected merely to listen to London's position, rather than offer an Israeli response in his late morning meeting with British Foreign Office Under Secretary Peter Ricketts.
The diplomat said the British Embassy in Tel Aviv would contact those whose names were used to provide them with information on receiving new passports.
Although Tel Aviv 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 Tel Aviv, Israeli 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 Tel Aviv 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 Organized Crime Agency will lead this investigation, in close cooperation with the Emirati authorities," the Foreign Office said.
British daily The Times quotes a former Mossad agent as saying that since Meir Dagan's appointment t as head of the spy agency in 2002, maintaining good relations with other nations was dropped to the bottom of the list. “Mossad is facing a lot of anger right now over the use of British and European passports. I don’t know if Mossad was actually involved or how they got those passports though I can say that Dagan isn’t the kind of man to care about angering a few people to get the job done,” the former agent told The Times.
An editorial published The Independent columnist Robert Fisk pointed an accusatory finger at Britain itself, claiming that Dubai suspects "Europe's 'security collaboration' with Israel has crossed a line into illegality, where British passports (and those of other EU nations) can now be used to send Israeli agents into the Gulf to kill Israel's enemies."
Fisk quoted an "impeccable" source in the Arab emirate as saying that "the British passports are real. They are hologram pictures with the biometric stamp. They are not forged or fake. The names were really there. If you can fake a hologram or biometric stamp, what does this mean?"
The Irish Foreign Ministry said it is attempting to locate the Irish citizens to whom these passports belong to or belonged to in the past. Minister Martin asked the media to respect their privacy.
The minister said he regarded any activity which would jeopardize the integrity of the Irish passport as extremely serious. "Our passport is widely regarded and respected throughout the world as being of the highest quality. We have invested very heavily in extra security features so that our citizens can travel in safety. Actions, which endanger our well earned reputation in this area, have the potential to affect the security of all our citizens travelling overseas. I am determined to maintain the good name of Irish passports. The Department is liaising closely with the UAE authorities on the matter.”
The Irish Foreign Ministry said it would be in contact, through its embassies in London, Paris and Berlin, with the authorities in these countries with a view to working with them in this investigation.
Israel appears to be in trouble in Austria as well. The Interior Ministry in Vienna said it had launched an investigation into the suspected use of at least seven mobile phones with pre-paid Austrian chips by Mabhouh's killers.
The Dubai police investigation revealed that the cell members did not contact each other directly during their stay in the country, and didn't do so before their arrival and after leaving as well. However, they spoke to each other by dialing to a communications center in Austria, which was referred to as "the assassins' headquarters" by the Dubai police.
The alleged killers arrived in Dubai on January 19, a day after Mabhouh, 50, who lives in Damascus, arrived in the emirate. They left the United Arab Emirates on January 20, the day the Hamas leading member was found dead.
UK official: We knew about Mossad assassination plot
Interpol issues arrest warrants for 11 over Dubai hit
Interpol issues arrest warrants for 11 over Dubai hit
Interpol has issued arrest warrants for 11 suspects accused of killing a senior Hamas official in Dubai last month.
The warrants were issued after Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim called on Interpol to issue "a red notice against the head of Mossad… as a killer in case Mossad is proved to be behind the crime, which is likely now."
According to Tamim, investigations have revealed that the Israeli spy agency Mossad was behind the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
“It is 99 percent, if not 100 percent certain that Mossad is behind the murder," he told the United Arab Emirates newspaper The National on Thursday.
On Monday, Dubai authorities launched an international manhunt for 11 suspects in the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was killed in his hotel room on January 19, hours after he arrived in Dubai from Syria.
The Dubai police identified 11 people, 10 men and a woman, suspected of killing the top Hamas official who had survived at least three other assassination attempts. According to the police, the suspects arrived in Dubai the day before the killing. Five of them carried out the crime while the remaining six served as lookouts, the police said.
Dubai police said on Monday that the 11 suspects had European passports: one French, three Irish, six British, and one German. A French national, identified as Peter Elvinger allegedly acted as the logistical mastermind in the Dubai hit.
Meanwhile, there are reports that Austrian phone numbers were apparently used to plan al-Mabhouh's assassination.
The Austrian Interior Ministry says the country's investigators are in touch with the Dubai police to try to get to the bottom of things. Media reports speculate that the killers used up to seven Austrian SIM cards or phone numbers while preparing for the hit.