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Australia sends police to Israel over Dubai assassination

Australian police arrived in Israel on Wednesday to investigate identity theft of dual nationals in connection with the Dubai assassination widely blamed on Israel's Mossad intelligence agency. The use of forged passports has provoked a stern response, but is unlikely to jeopardize relations.

By Kathy MarksCorrespondent / March 3, 2010

Dubai assassination: Two suspects in the killing of Hamas militant, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh are shown in this CCTV handout from Dubai police February 15.

Dubai Police/Reuters


Sydney, Australia

An Australian police team arrived in Israel on Wednesday to look into the misuse of three dual citizens’ identities in connection with the January assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai.

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The investigation into the Dubai assassination comes as part of Australia’s stern response to the fraudulent use of its passports by suspected agents of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Last week Australian leaders condemned the forgeries in unusually robust language.

But while ties with Israel have been strained, the traditionally close relationship between the two countries is likely to survive intact, foreign policy experts believe.

When it comes to Israel, Canberra takes its lead from its major ally, the United States. Moreover, analysts say, the government would not risk upsetting Australia’s relatively small but influential Jewish community – particularly in an election year.

“I suspect the relationship will get chillier for a while, but it will be a low-level chill, and hardly anyone will notice,” says Matthew Gray, a Middle East expert at the Australian National University (ANU).

“There might be one or two visits postponed, and the ambassador might find it bit more difficult to get access to the minister or officials. But while this is very serious, it’s not grave enough to permanently or badly damage the relationship.”

Some observers have linked Australia’s abstention from a United Nations vote last week, calling on Israel and the Palestinians to investigate human rights violations during the Gaza war, to its displeasure over the assassination. Israel had sought a "no" vote on the resolution, and Australia typically votes with Israel. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd denied any connection with the Dubai assassination, although foreign policy analysts are not convinced.

Investigators sent to Israel