Assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh

Assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh
Assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh
Location Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Date January 19, 2010
Target Mahmoud al-Mabhouh
Attack type Assassination
Weapon(s) Pillow, muscle relaxant
Death(s) 1
Perpetrator(s) 33 people, using forged and fraudulently obtained passports.
Suspected perpetrator Mossad

The assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, (February 14, 1961 – January 19, 2010) took place on January 19, 2010, in a Dubai hotel room. Al-Mabhouh—a co-founder of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamist Palestinian militant group Hamas—was wanted by the Israeli government for the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers in 1989 as well as purchasing arms from Iran for use in Gaza; these have been cited as a possible motive for the assassination.[1] He also had many other enemies including Fatah (whose members "loathed" him), Egypt had imprisoned him for all of 2003, and Jordan's intelligence services were looking for him.[2]

His assassination attracted international attention in part due to allegations that it was ordered by the Israeli government and carried out by Mossad agents holding fake or fraudulently obtained passports from several European countries and Australia.

The photographs of 26 suspects, and the names they used, have been placed on Interpol's most-wanted list. According to Dubai's authorities, there are up to 29 suspects, 12 of whom carried British passports, six Irish, four French, one German, and four Australian, and another two Palestinians who were arrested.[3][4][5][6][7] Interpol and the Dubai police believe the suspects stole the identities of real people, mostly Israeli dual citizens.[3][8] Two Palestinians, believed by Hamas to be former Fatah security officers and current employees of a senior Fatah official, were taken into custody in Dubai, on suspicions that one of them provided logistical assistance to the hit team. Despite Hamas's claim, Dubai would not comment on the incident or identify the two Palestinian suspects.

According to initial reports, al-Mabhouh was drugged,[9] then electrocuted and suffocated.[5] Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim of the Dubai Police Force said the suspects tracked al-Mabhouh to Dubai from Damascus, Syria. They arrived from different European destinations and stayed at different hotels, presumably to avoid being detected and, with the exception of three of its members suspected of "helping to facilitate" who had left on a ferry for Iran several months before the assassination, departed after the assassination to different countries.[2][5] Dubai's police chief said that he was "99% certain" that the assassination was the work of Israel's Mossad. On March 1, 2010, he stated that he was "sure" that all of the suspects are hiding in Israel.[10][11] He has said that Dubai will ask for an arrest warrant to be issued for Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, if it is confirmed that the Mossad is involved and responsible for the assassination.[12] The Hamas leadership also holds Israel responsible, and has vowed revenge.[13] Hamas, which is itself on the US and EU lists of terrorist organizations (and also considered a terrorist organization by the governments of Israel,[14] and Japan,[15] as is its military arm by The United Kingdom[16] and Australia[17]), requested that Israel be added by the EU to its list because of suspicions that Israel was involved in the assassination.[18] However, later in March, Dubai police chief said, "I am now completely sure that it was Mossad", and went on to say "I have presented the (Dubai) prosecutor with a request for the arrest of (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and the head of Mossad" for the assassination.[19] and Khalfan would also suggest that Hamas fed information to the Mossad[20]

On March 23, 2010, Britain's foreign secretary expelled an Israeli diplomat after the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency turned up evidence that Israel had forged copies of British passports.[21] On May 24, the Australian government expelled an Israeli diplomat after concluding that there was "'no doubt Israel was behind the forgery of four Australian passports" related to the assassination.[22] Similar action was taken by Ireland.[23] Israel has refused to comment on the accusations that its security forces were behind the assassination.[5]

On September 30, 2010, Dubai's police chief Dahi Khalfan said he received death threats from Israel's spy agency Mossad linked to his role in uncovering details of the assassination of Mabhouh.[24][25][26]


Sequence of events

Timeline of key events[27]
(January 19, 2010)
2:29 am Team leader arrives in Dubai
3:25 pm Mabhouh arrives at hotel
3:51 pm Team reserves opposite room
4:23 pm Mabhouh exits hotel
8:24 pm He comes back to hotel
(Mabhouh is killed)
8:46 pm Team begins to leave hotel
(January 20)
1:30 pm Body of Mabhouh discovered

On January 19, 2010, al-Mabhouh was assassinated in his room in a hotel in Dubai, after being tracked by at least 29 suspects (26 suspects whose passport photos have been released, 2 arrested Palestinians, and another unnamed suspect),[28] 26 of whom carried forged or fraudulently-obtained passports from various European nations.

The Sunday Times reported that al-Mabhouh's departure from Damascus to Dubai on Emirates Flight no. 912 at 10:05 a.m. on January 19, 2010 was tracked by an agent on the ground in Damascus.[29] Salah Bardawil, a Hamas legislator, said al-Mabhouh put himself at risk by booking his trip online and informing family in Gaza of the telephone number of the hotel at which he would be staying on his trip.[30] Though there were reports that al-Mabhouh traveled under a false passport with the fake name "Mahmoud Abdul Raouf Mohammed",[2][29][31] Hamas and Dubai officials maintain that al-Mabhouh entered the country under his own identity at 3:15 p.m.[32][33] Normally al-Mabhouh would have been protected by bodyguards, but their arrival was delayed because the guards could not get tickets for the same flight, as "There was no room for them on the flight," said Talal Nasser, a spokesman for Hamas in Damascus. "Therefore he traveled alone, and the security guards were slated to join him the next day," he resumed.[34]

Dubai’s police chief, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, stated that Mabhouh was transiting in Dubai before traveling to China.[35]

Upon arrival in Dubai, al-Mabhouh took a taxi to the Al Bustan Rotana hotel and settled into room 230.[36] He had asked for a room with no balcony and sealed windows, so as no one could enter other than through the door. He showered, changed, left documents in the safe, and then exited the hotel between 4:30 and 5 p.m, roughly an hour after first checking in.[37]

Nevertheless, what he did during the next three to four hours remains unclear. Dubai’s police chief said he did not meet anyone in the emirate, and went shopping.[35] Meanwhile, the hit squad broke into his room. At 8:24 p.m. al-Mabhouh came back to the room,[36] and subsequently failed to answer a call from his wife half an hour later.[37]

An Al Bustan Rotana Hotel room in Dubai

Hotel surveillance footage was released to the public showing the suspects, who had arrived on separate flights, meeting in the hotel. While the suspects apparently used personal encrypted communication devices among themselves to avoid surveillance,[38] the suspects were alleged by Dubai police to have sent and received a number of SMS messages to telephone numbers in Austria.

When al-Mabhouh arrived around 3 p.m., two of the suspects who were dressed in tennis attire followed him to determine which room he had checked into (which is No. 230), as well as the number of the room immediately across the hall (No. 237). The information is alleged by the Dubai police to have been communicated to a third party, who then telephoned from a different hotel to book room 237. According to surveillance videos, the individual who checked into 237 did not enter the room, but appears to have given the room key to an accomplice in the lobby of the hotel, and then to immediately have left Dubai, prior to the assassination. Al-Mabhouh, later, left the hotel and while several of the suspects kept watching, it is thought that (a) suspect(s) tried to gain entry to his room. One of the lookout suspects could be seen on video delaying a tourist who exits the elevator on the second floor at this time, apparently to give other team members time to act. While another suspect distracted the tourist, it is claimed that four suspects entered the victim’s hotel room and waited for him to return. The evidence for this is the fact that four men arrived by elevator and entered the hallway where the victim's room and the alleged perpetrator's rooms were located at this time, and the same four men immediately left after the assassination is supposed to have happened.

A readout of activity that took place on the hotel room's electronic door lock indicated that an attempt was made to reprogram al-Mabhouh’s electronic door lock at this time. The investigators believe that the electronic lock on al-Mabhouh’s door may have been reprogrammed and that the killers gained entry to his room this way[39] The locks in question, VingCard Locklink brand (Dubai police video, 21:42), can be accessed and reprogrammed directly at the hotel room door.

According to Dubai Police, he was dead by 9 p.m. that evening.[33] On January 20, 2010, the following day, a hotel cleaner attempted to gain entry, but found that the door was latched from the inside. A member of hotel security was then called in to open the door. After the door was opened, al-Mabhouh's body was discovered.[2][29][40] The body was lying in bed under the bedsheets, wearing only a pair of black shorts.[2] On the drawer next to the bed, the assassins had placed a small bottle of medicine to make it appear as if he had died of natural causes.


Cause of death

Initially, Dubai authorities believed al-Mabhouh had died of natural causes.[41] Fawzi Benomran, the Dubai police coroner, said, "It was meant to look like death from natural causes during sleep." It took 10 days for the Dubai police to come to the conclusion that al-Mabhouh was assassinated. Benomran described the determination of the exact cause of death as "one of the most challenging cases" his department has faced.[42]

The Khaleej Times quoted an unnamed senior police official as saying that four masked assailants had shocked al-Mabhouh's legs before using a pillow to suffocate him.[43] Another story reported by Uzi Mahnaimi stated that a hit team murdered al-Mabhouh with a heart-attack inducing drug, then proceeded to take photographs of his documents before leaving.[29]

Al-Mabhouh's family said that medical teams that examined his body determined that he died in his hotel room after being strangled and receiving a massive electric shock to the head, and that blood samples examined by a French laboratory confirms that electrocution was the cause of death.[44] Dubai authorities stated they were ruling the death a homicide and were working with the International Criminal Police Organization to investigate the incident.[45]

Other news reports gave varying causes of death, including suffocation with a pillow and poisoning.[46][47][48] In an international press conference General Tamim, the head of the investigation, said that the exact cause of death is yet to be concluded.[49]

Moreover, on March 1, 2010, the Dubai Police stated that he was first drugged[50]

Major General Khamis Mattar al-Mazeina as the deputy commander of Dubai's police gave details of the death of al Mabhouh after forensic tests. Al Mabhouh was injected in his leg with succinylcholine, a quick-acting, depolarizing paralytic muscle relaxant.[51] It causes almost-instant loss of motor skills, but does not induce loss of consciousness or anaesthesia.[2][51] Then al Mabhouh was suffocated. Al-Mazeina said, "The assassins used this method so that it would seem that his death was natural".[52]


Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, announced his preliminary conclusions (on February 18) that, "Our investigations reveal that Mossad is involved in the murder of al-Mabhouh ... It is 99% if not 100% that Mossad is standing behind the murder."[42][53] After identifying the assumed names and photographs of 11 suspects, on February 20, 2010, he said his force had evidence directly incriminating the Mossad in the murder, adding that among the new evidence available were telephone communications between the suspected killers.[54] On February 24, 2010, Dubai police identified 15 additional persons suspected of being involved in al-Mabhouh's assassination.[55][56] According to journalist Uzi Mahnaimi, the decision to kill al-Mabhouh was authorized by Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, after being suggested by Meir Dagan, the head of the Mossad, at a meeting in early January 2010.[57] Later in March, Dubai police chief said "I am now completely sure that it was Mossad," and furthermore went on to say "I have presented the (Dubai) prosecutor with a request for the arrest of (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and the head of Mossad," for the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.[19]

Dubai police said the assassins spent little time in the emirate, arriving less than a day before the assassination, killing al-Mabhouh between his arrival at 3:15 p.m. and 9 p.m. that night, and subsequently leaving the country before his discovery.[33] The identities used by 11 of the suspects have been made public.[58] Two members of the team flew to Paris, while others flew to Hong Kong and South Africa before doubling back to Europe.[2] The total number of suspects stands at 18, all of whom entered the country using fake or fraudulently obtained passports.[6][59] Dubai police, who have stated that their airport personnel are trained by Europeans to identify faked documents, said that the European passports used were not forgeries.[60] British, Canadian, and Irish governments said the passports bearing their countries' names were, "either fraudulently obtained or [are] outright fakes."[61] All the stolen passports are from countries that do not need visas for the UAE.[62]

  •  United Kingdom: Six passports with the names Paul John Keely, Stephan Daniel Hodes, Melvyn Adam Mildiner, Jonathan Louis Graham, James Leonard Clarke, and Michael Lawrence Barney,[63] and another six passports with the names Daniel Marc Schnur, Gabriella Barney, Roy Allan Cannon, Stephen Keith Drake, Mark Sklur, and Philip Carr.[64] On the 24th of May, 2010, another British suspect was publicized- Briton Christopher Lockwood.[65] It was later discovered that this suspect had stolen the identity of an Israeli soldier who was killed in the Yom Kippur War.[66]
  •  Republic of Ireland : Three passports with the names Gail Folliard, Kevin Daveron, and Evan Dennings and another three with the names Ivy Brinton, Anna Shuana Clasby, and Chester Halvey.[64] Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs declared that the passports used by the suspects were counterfeit[67] and stated that it was "unable to identify any of those three individuals as being genuine Irish". According to the department, Ireland has never issued passports in those names.[68] While the names and signatures were fake, the numbers on the passports were genuine, and belong to Irish citizens.[6] Four of the five citizens have been contacted by the Department of Foreign Affairs, all of whom live in Ireland; none of them have travelled to the Middle East, lost their passports or had them stolen.[6]
  •  France: One passport with the name Peter Elvinger (suspected of being used by the hit squad leader,[69] and logistical coordinator), plus another three passports with the names David Bernard LaPierre, Mélanie Heard, and Eric Rassineux.[64][70] According to a spokesman of the French Foreign Affairs ministry, the passport in the name of Elvinger was counterfeit.[71] The French government summoned the Israeli chargé d'affaires in Paris on February 18 and the French Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing, "deep concern about the malicious and fraudulent use of these French administrative documents."[72]
  •  Germany: One passport with the name Michael Bodenheimer.[70] German officials initially said that the passport number which they received from the authorities in Dubai is either incomplete or does not exist.[73] Later, it was revealed that the passport was genuine. According to German federal investigators, an Israeli man named Michael Bodenheimer acquired German citizenship in June 2008 after providing immigration officials in Cologne with the pre-World War II address of his grandparents and his parents' marriage certificate.[74][75] He stated that he was an Israeli citizen and gave his address as a temporary "virtual office" that he had bought in Herzliya (as of February 22 the office does not exist anymore).[75] A Michael Bodenheimer who lives in Israel and holds dual American and Israeli citizenships said he does not know how his identity was stolen.[74] One person who has the passport name Uri Brodsky was arrested in Poland in early June 2010. He was in Cologne with Michael Bodenheimer and Germany is seeking his extradition.[76] See sub-heading "Alexander Verin aka Uri Brodsky" below for more information.
  •  Australia: Three passports with the names Nicole Sandra Mccabe (who is heavily pregnant according to her mother [77]), Adam Korman and Joshua Aaron Krycer.[78][79][80] Adam Marcus Korman, an Israeli-Australian citizen living in Israel, said that he was shocked and angry that his identity was stolen.[81] In addition, the other three names are names of residents of Israel.[82] A man named Joshua Krycer works in a hospital located in Jerusalem.[83][84][85]

The names used on the UK passports belong to individuals who live in Israel and hold dual citizenships.[86] An analysis of the assassination in The Jewish Chronicle notes that this, "is the first real piece of information that could link Israel to the operation."[87] Mossad is known to use the identities of Israelis with dual citizenship. In 1997, two Mossad agents traveled with Canadian passports of dual citizenship Israelis to Amman, Jordan in a botched attempt on the life of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.[88] According to former katsa Victor Ostrovsky, a Canadian citizen, the Mossad formerly asked permission to use the passports of Israelis with dual nationality, but "I believe at some point, they stopped asking".[89]

A Jerusalem-based British citizen whose name was used on one of the passports told Reuters news agency that he has never been to Dubai and had no connection with the Mossad or the killing. He said that he did not "know how this happened or who chose my name or why".[90] In addition, three other Israelis whose names appeared on the passports reported to the Israeli Channel 2 news that they did not understand the coincidence, and were not related at all to the suspects.[73][91] In the wake of the revelation that passports of British citizens had figured prominently in the operation, the United Kingdom's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) launched its own investigation into the matter,[92] and plans to interview the first round of British passport holders that had their identities stolen.[93] The British Foreign Office also summoned the Israeli ambassador on February 18 to share information on the matter.[94][95] The Daily Mail cited a previously reliable "British security source" as stating that Mossad had tipped off the UK that their passports would be used for an operation,[96] but this was denied by the UK government.[97]

The photographs of 11 of the suspected killers were added to Interpol's most wanted list on February 18, with a note specifying that they had been published since the identities adopted by the suspects were faked. Dubai airport officials carried out routine retinal scans on 11 of the suspects sought in the assassination when they entered the country and Dubai police said they would publish the scans through INTERPOL.[98]

Dubai police said some hit squad members fled to Iran after the assassination.[99]

Seventeen of the suspects used MasterCards branded by MetaBank of Storm Lake, Iowa but issued by Payoneer Inc which were used to buy their plane tickets in other countries before their arrival in Dubai.[100][101][102][103][104] Other credit cards show ties to Britain's Nationwide Building Society, IDT Finance of Gilbraltar, and Germany's DZ Bank AG.[105] Payoneer is an Israeli start-up now based in New York with R&D offices and a majority of its employees in Tel Aviv. CEO Yuval Tal, is a former member of the IDF Special Forces. Payoneer is held by three venture capital firms: Greylock Partners, Carmel Ventures, and Crossbar Capital. Greylock, which has offices in the U.S. and Herzliya, Israel, was established by Moshe Mor, a former military intelligence captain in the Israeli army. Carmel Ventures is an Israeli venture capital fund based in Herzliya. Crossbar Partners is run by Charlie Federman, who is also managing director of the BRM Group, a venture capital fund also in Herzliya that was co-founded by Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem. Mossad HQ are located in Herzliya.[106] The New York Post originally reported that Tal has disappeared since his company was identified as the issuer of some of the killers' credit cards, with his Brooklyn neighbors telling the NYPD that he left the country.[107] He reappeared a day later, however.[108]

The Dubai Police has found the DNA of one person and some fingerprints of other persons which are suspected.[109] The chief of Dubai Police Dhahi Khalfan Tamim said that there are 648 hours of video films in which the 27 suspected persons are appearing.[110] The police chief of Dubai Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan announced that the police has found the DNA of four suspected agents.[111]

Security experts said the fact that no one can definitely say who was responsible—despite strong signs it was Israel—underscored the notion that this was a clandestine state national intelligence service at work.[112] Robert Ayers, a former U.S. intelligence officer, said: "They got in, killed the guy and disappeared, without leaving proof of who they were. It doesn't get any better than that."[112] As to the fact that such a large team was used, the prevailing view in the intelligence community was that it indicates the seriousness of the killers' intent, and reflected preparation for the possibility that things could go wrong, and team members need support to get out.[112] A former member of a European intelligence service said: "On the video they do a good job of looking relaxed. This comes from knowing you have backup in the field."[112] Similarly, espionage historian Phillip Knightley said the size of the team was not excessive, noting: "You can never have too many people on the ground."[112]


Two Palestinians, Ahmad Hasnin, an intelligence operative of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA), and Anwar Shekhaiber, an employee of the PA in Ramallah, were arrested in Jordan on charges of being accomplices to the assassination, and handed over to Dubai, suspected of giving logistical assistance including renting cars and hotel rooms.[2][113] Hamas has claimed that their arrest is evidence linking the Palestinian Authority to the killing, while the Palestinian Authority has retorted by accusing the arrested Palestinians of being members of Hamas.[114]

The two men are reported to be related to one another and to have lived in Gaza until Hamas took over full control of the Strip in 2006. One went straight to Dubai, while the other joined him after first going to Ramallah, where he was sentenced to death by a Palestinian Authority court, a punishment generally handed down to Israeli collaborators.[115] The recruitment of Ahmad Hasnin by the Mossad could have been done when he was imprisoned by Israel for a month in June 2007 for his involvement with Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the military wing for Fatah. He came to the UAE in 2008, according to a family source.[116]

Dubai authorities said that one of the two Palestinians held in custody met a suspect in a suspicious place, time and manner, while the second is closely related to him and was found to have already been sentenced to death by one of the Palestinian parties. The second suspect is wanted by Hamas. They are both being held to ensure that no one comes to execute them.[117]

A Haaretz report based on information from an unnamed Arab diplomatic source said that Dubai police had asked Syria to detain Mohammed Nasser and other Hamas men for questioning. According to media reports, Nasser was in Dubai in the days before Mabhouh's killing and was intimately familiar with his schedule and whereabouts.[118]

Dubai Police chief Dahi Khalfan said on March 3[year needed] he requested for the Dubai prosecutor to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan for the murder.[119]

He also announced Canada had arrested a suspect who "was among the preparatory group which arrived in the country and left it before the crime was committed." The suspects was reported to be one amongst a number of suspects for whom Interpol has issued red corner notices on behalf of the UAE.[120] The following day, however, the Canadian embassy in the UAE denied this but said they were liasing with authorities back in Canada to verify the status of the arrest.[121]

Alexander Varin aka Alexander Verin aka Uri Brodsky

On 4 June 2010, Polish police arrested a man at the Warsaw airport carrying a false passport with the name Uri Brodsky, who was wanted by German authorities.[122] A European Arrest Warrant from Germany specified that Brodsky, aka Alexander Verin (or Varin), was "suspected of being involved in illegally obtaining a [German] passport" for another man known as Michael Bodenheimer, who is alleged to have taken part in Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's murder.[123] A Polish court approved Brodsky's extradition to Germany on 07 July, pending appeal.[124][125] However, the extradition was approved on the basis that Brodsky would not face German charges of espionage - instead he would only face the lesser charge of falsely-obtaining documents.[126] Brodsky was transferred to German custody on 12 Aug, released on 100,000 euros bail on the 13th, and flown back to Israel on the 14th.[127][128] The German prosecutor indicated that Brodsky would not have to face trial after all, but instead that "the matter can now be dealt with by written proceedings," most likely resulting in a fine.[129] At the end of 2010, Germany suspended the case of falsifying documents in lieu of a 60,000 euro fine; however, a German arrest warrant on the espionage charges remains in effect.[130]

Arrest of a top suspect

On 11 Oct 2010, The National of Abu Dhabi published an interview with Dubai's police chief Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, in which he claims that a western country had arrested a top suspect of killing Mabhuh about two months ago. The ambassador of the western country does not want to name the country and the name of the arrested suspect. Tamin expressed frustration at the lack of detail: "Why is it that every time an Israeli is involved in a crime, everyone goes mute? We want anyone who is dealing with this case to deal with it as security case, and not to pay attention to any other consideration."[131][132][133]



  •  United Arab Emirates – Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said, "The abuse of passports poses a global threat, affecting both countries' national security as well as the personal security of travelers."[134] He also said that those responsible would be brought to account, noting that, "The UAE firmly believes that relations among nations should be conducted on the basis of respect for sovereignty, mutual trust and within the framework of international norms. Like all civilised nations, we abide by these principles and we will deal with this criminal act within the international framework expected of civilised nations."[135] Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, expressed the country's deep concern that expertly doctored passports from nations that do not require advance visas were used by the suspected killers. UAE officials said they remained in "close contact with the concerned European governments," listing the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Germany and Austria.[134] Lieutenant General Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim said on March, 1 2010, during the International Security National Resilience Exhibition & Conference at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, that the police of the UAE will develop the skills to identify persons which are Israelis. So the police will deny the entry of any person as a suspected Israeli.[136] Tamim indicated he was satisfied with his investigation, saying: "We have better experience and expertise than the Mossad."[137]
  •  United KingdomBritain's Foreign Office believes that the passports used were fraudulent;[73] one report indicated that they had issued the passports in January, 2010, the only difference between the actual identities being the photographs.[138] The Telegraph reported on February 20 that diplomatic sources say that the passport fraud was carried out by Israeli immigration officials. It is claimed that the dual Israeli-British citizens had their passports taken from them as they passed through the airport in Tel Aviv – the details on the documents were recorded (and they were most likely photocopied), and then used to create new documents. These new documents sported the pictures of the suspects, but used the names and numbers of those whose identities were stolen.[139] As a result of an investigation by the British Serious Organized Crime Agency, the government concluded that there were "compelling evidence to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports."[140] The British Foreign Secretary David Miliband expelled a senior Israeli diplomat, who was thought to be the Mossad's station commander in the country.[141][142][143][144][145] Britain also issued a warning to UK passport holders traveling to Israel to "only hand your passport over to third parties including Israeli officials when absolutely necessary".[146] Israel had already used fake British passports to conduct an operation in 1987.[147]
  •  FranceFrançois Fillon, the French Prime Minister, said that though it remained unclear as to who was responsible, "France condemns assassination. Assassination is not a means of action in international relations."[148] The Israeli chargé d'affaires in Paris was summoned on February 18 and the French Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing, "deep concern about the malicious and fraudulent use of these French administrative documents."[72]
  •  Austria – The spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry confirmed that Austria is investigating the use of Austrian mobile phones by the suspected killers.
  •  Germany – Germany confirmed that it is actively pursuing information on the identity of the killers of al-Mabhouh.[149] The German federal prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe began investigations about foreign spy activities in connection with the German passport used by one suspect in Dubai.[150] The German Bundesnachrichtendienst (German intelligence service) told members of the German parliament that apparently the Mossad executed the operation in Dubai. According to Der Spiegel, the Mossad operation could be considered as an affront to the Germans since the current head of German intelligence, Ernst Uhrlau has been acting at the behest of the Israeli government as a liaison between Jerusalem and Hamas. He sought the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Palestinian militants in 2006 in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by the Israelis. Urhrlau was in Israel just a few days before Jan. 19. By then the Dubai operation was certainly under way.[151]
  •  Ireland – The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs stated that “Irish passports used by three people believed to have been involved in killing a Hamas member had genuine numbers” but that “the people identified in the passports recorded in Dubai were not those in the genuine passports.” The department had previously reported that the passport numbers were counterfeit and has since been given "additional material relating to the passport numbers". The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was trying to contact the three Irish citizens who hold or have held passports containing these numbers.[152] Ireland ordered the removal of an Israeli diplomat as a protest over the use of forged passports.[153]
  •  Iran – On February 2, the Iranian foreign ministry blamed Israel for the incident, stating, "This is another indication of the existence of state terrorism by the Zionist regime".[154]
  •  Australia – On February 25, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, said that any country that so abused Australian passports held Australia in contempt, stating, "we will not let the matter lie."[62] In a meeting with Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem, Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, made it "crystal clear" that if it was concluded that Israeli officials had condoned or sponsored the abuse of the Australian passports, "Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend".[155] Soon after this occurred, Australia, who is usually a strong supporter of Israel at the United Nations, abstained on a UN motion to investigate Israeli war crimes committed during the Gaza War, a motion that Australia had previously opposed. In the Australian press there was widespread speculation that the move was retaliation for the passport affair, although this was denied by the Australian government.[156] On May 24, 2010 Australia expelled an Israeli diplomat in response to the incident. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith was quoted as saying "the decision was made much more in sorrow than in anger".[157]
  •  Lebanon – Key Hezbollah members became nervous after the killing in Dubai. Since foreign passports were seemingly used for the attack, Hezbollah asked the Lebanese government for additional screening of foreigners entering Lebanon.[158]
  •  Sweden – Foreign Minister Carl Bildt stated that "misuse of European passports is not to be tolerated".[159]
  •  Israel – The Israeli government initially did not comment on claims that it was involved in Mabhouh's death.[154] On February 17, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman refused to confirm or deny any Israeli involvement, and noted a lack of solid evidence for Israeli involvement.[160] On February 24 the Jerusalem Post quoted the Israeli Opposition leader Tzipi Livni as saying "Every terrorist must know that no one will support him when a soldier, and it doesn’t matter what soldier, tries to kill him" [161] Israeli media and public opinion has generally accepted Mossad's responsibility for the operation.[162] Due to Israel's military censorship laws the Israeli media at first were careful to use the phrase "according to foreign media reports" to avoid directly accusing Mossad, however the phrase was abandoned and Mossad's culpability was openly assumed after the first week of the scandal.[163] Opinions of the Israeli media were divided between approving of the success of al-Mabhouh's killing and disapproving the sloppiness of the operation and the resultant exposure and media scandal. Haaretz's Amir Oren called Dagan to be fired due to what he considered a sloppy job,[164] while the newspaper's Yossi Melman predicted Israel would emerge from the incident "unblemished".[165] After the United Kingdom expelled an Israeli diplomat over the use of British passports, Israeli right wing politicians commented against Britain's "disloyal" action. Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari stated that "This is anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism". Israeli politician Aryeh Eldad stated that "Britain's behavior is hypocritical. Who are they to judge us in the war on terror?". Other than non-official comments made by right wing politicians, Israel has not officially responded.[166]
  •  United States - On December 28, 2010, secret cables leaked by Wikileaks showed that Dubai considered keeping the assassination secret, and asked the United States to help track down information on credit card numbers suspected of having been used by the assassins.[167][168] The United States did not cooperate with the investigation.[169]


The day following Mabhouh's death, Hamas' armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, announced that he died of terminal cancer in a hospital in the United Arab Emirates.[170]

On January 29, Hamas' deputy politburo chief Moussa Abu Marzouk said, "Mossad agents are those who assassinated al-Mabhouh".[171] Top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar speculated that same day that it was possible that members of the entourage of Israeli infrastructure minister Uzi Landau, who were in the United Arab Emirates at the time for a renewable energy conference, were involved in his killing.[172][173] Landau dismissed the claim, stating that his delegation was in Abu Dhabi, some 120 km from Dubai, and was escorted by an eight-man UAE security team at all times.[174][175]

On February 2, Hamas' representative in Lebanon Osama Hamdan said that Palestinian Authority security forces might have been involved in the death, stating that, "The Palestinian Authority security forces are pursuing [our] fighters and they have killed dozens of them since 1994."[176] The Christian Science Monitor reported that as liaison between Hamas and Iran for weapons-purchase and smuggling, he had many enemies including Israel (for the 1989 kidnapping and killing of two soldiers), Fatah (whose members "loathed" him), and Jordan (which was looking for him) and Egypt (which had imprisoned him for all of 2003).[2] Haaretz reported that details from a preliminary Hamas investigation procured by the newspaper suggested that Mabhouh was assassinated by agents of an Arab government, and that al-Mabhouh was wanted by Egypt and Jordan.[177] On February 12, senior Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal rejected reports that Hamas blamed Arab states for Mabhouh's death, and said the Israeli Mossad was solely responsible.[178]

On February 19, Hamas representatives said that the two Palestinians arrested in Dubai, Ahmad Hassanain and Anwar Shheibar, are former members of Fatah's security forces and work at a construction company in Dubai owned by Mohammed Dahlan, a senior Fatah security official. A senior Hamas official told Al-Hayat newspaper that the two provided logistical aid to the Mossad hit team alleged to have carried out the murder, renting them cars and hotel rooms. Dahlan and Fatah denied the charges.[179] Hamas blamed Fatah for helping the hit team.[180]

The Guardian reported on February 21 that the Emirate's police chief said that al-Mabhouh had been betrayed by a close associate, voiced suspicion of an "agent" in Hamas's ranks, and urged it to investigate.[180] Nahru Massoud, a senior Hamas figure in the military wing of Hamas who had been in Abu Dhabi but left before the killing, said he was not being investigated for involvement, though Fatah officials claimed he was under arrest for it in Damascus.[180]

European Union

EU foreign ministers "strongly condemned" the use of forged European passports in the killing.[181][182]

United Nations

Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as stating, "If a foreign intelligence agency was responsible for the killing of Mabhouh, the matter should clearly be classified as an extrajudicial execution. There is no legal justification for the cold-blooded murder of a man who, if alleged to have committed crimes, could have been arrested and charged."[183]

See also

  • Israel – United Arab Emirates relations
  • 2004 Israel – New Zealand spy scandal
  • Lillehammer affair


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