Dubai killing opens diplomatic rift with Israel

EU Observer (Link) - Leigh Phillips (February 18, 2010)

The Israeli ambassadors to the UK and Ireland have been summoned to explain the use of fake passports by the hit squad that killed a senior Hamas leader in Dubai three weeks ago.

While London is not publicly accusing Israel of being behind the assassination, the British Foreign Office has requested that the country�s ambassador to the UK �share information� on how it was that six counterfeit versions of passports held by dual British-Israeli citizens came to be used in the operation.

�The British passport is an important part of being British and we have to make sure everything is done to protect it,� Prime Minister Gordon Brown told LBC Radio on Tuesday.

�The British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care,� he said. �The evidence has got to be assembled about what has actually happened and how it happened and why it happened.�

On Wednesday, the UK prime minister said he had launched an investigation of the affair by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

On 20 January, Mohammed al-Mabhouh, who was attached to the al-Qassam Brigades, the group�s military wing, and, according to Israeli sources, was the lead gun-runner from Iran to Gaza, died in mysterious circumstances in a Dubai hotel.

The Dubai police investigating his death have revealed that Mr al-Mabhouh had been poisoned by eleven individuals travelling on European passports from the UK, Ireland, France and Germany.

Israel�s ambassador to Ireland has also been requested to meet with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs to explain the situation, according to the Irish Times.

Foreign minister Micheal Martin described as �extremely serious� any threat to trust in the Irish passport.

�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,� he said.

The department had previously said that the numbers used on the passports were not used by the Irish system, but Dublin is now reporting that the numbers do indeed correspond to those in the valid passports.

�These numbers correspond to actual numbers on three legitimate Irish passports,� while the identities in the images of the passports presented by the Dubai authorities �do not correspond to those recorded on the valid passports carrying the same numbers,� said Mr Martin.

Two of the three Irish citizens named by the Dubai police as suspects lived in Ireland.

All the countries whose passports were used, apart from Germany, have since said the passports were faked.

Separately, the case has widened to Austria, with Vienna on Wednesday announcing an investigation into the assassination after it was revealed that the killers used mobile phones with Austrian numbers.

Israeli officials are concerned that the incident has opened a diplomatic rift between the Jewish state and the UK and that similar summonses could occur in Paris and Berlin, according to Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper. Dublin has suggested to London, Paris and Berlin that a joint investigation be carried out, according to one Israeli official.

Meanwhile, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said there was no proof that the Mossad was responsible for the murder, noting nevertheless Israel�s �policy of ambiguity� regarding its intelligence service.

At a memorial rally for the slain Palestinian in Gaza on Wednesday, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal called on EU states to hold Israel to account.

�We call on European countries to punish Israel�s leaders for violating laws,� he told the rally. �Israel deserves to be placed on the terror list.�