Page last updated at 22:28 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

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.

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 released images of 27 people they believe are behind the killing of a senior Hamas commander. The suspects are accused of using fake passports bearing their own pictures, but the names of innocent citizens.
Twelve of the passports used were British (shown on previous slide). The other 15 on the list are reported to have used stolen identities from Australian, French, Irish and German citizens.
The 27th suspect used the alias Joshua Aaron Krycer - a stolen Australian identity (pictured left). Police say the suspects used their fake documents to travel to Dubai in groups, flying from Zurich, Rome, Paris and Frankfurt.
One of the victims of the identity theft was British-Israeli Paul John Keeley (pictured right). The passport used by one of the suspected assassins bore his name, but featured a photograph of another man (pictured left).
Palestinian militant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in his hotel room in Dubai on 20 January. Police claim one of the suspects, pictured on the left, went to a hotel to put on a disguise. He is seen leaving a toilet wearing a wig.
Surveillance cameras also recorded Mr Mabhouh, circled in red above, at the hotel's reception before his death. At the bottom of the image the head of one of the suspects can be seen. As Mr Mabhouh leaves, the suspect follows.
Mr Mabhouh is trailed into the lift by a number of the suspects, including two pictured here in tennis gear. Investigators believe he had been followed from Syria to Dubai where it is thought he wanted to buy weapons for Hamas.
When Mr Mabhouh leaves the lift, police say two of the suspects can be seen following him down the corridor. He was later found dead in his room. A post-mortem report said he had been electrocuted and suffocated.
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