The Hamas assassination investigation in Dubai yielded 15 new suspects on Wednesday. The fact that three of the suspects were traveling on apparently fraudulent Australian passports – the first time the investigation has widened beyond the Middle East and Europe – saw Australia issue a blunt warning to Israel's ambassador in Canberra on Thursday.
Dubai has now named 26 suspects who traveled to Dubai on apparently fake European and Australian passports involved in the murder of alleged Hamas arms procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on the night of Jan. 19 in his Dubai hotel room. His body was discovered by hotel staff the next morning. In addition, Dubai authorities say they have two Palestinians with ties to Hamas rival Fatah in custody. Syria says it has detained a Hamas official in Damascus for questioning.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith cautioned that there is no evidence yet of Israeli involvement in the murder or the identity theft. But Smith warned if the Dubai allegations are correct -- a police official in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said he's "99 percent" certain the assassination was arranged by the Israeli Mossad intelligence service -- that there will be repercussions for Israel.
"I made it crystal clear to the ambassador that if the results of that investigation caused us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials, then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend," Mr. Smith told reporters.
The identities of three Australians now living in Israel -- Adam Korman, Joshua Bruce, and Nicole McCabe -- were apparently used by members of the team to create false passports. Israeli newspapers said the three Australians have all denied any knowledge of or involvement in what happened in Dubai, joining about 10 British and Irish immigrants to Israel who have likewise said their identities were apparently stolen for the operation.
None of the photographs on the alleged assassins' passports appear to match the European and Australian residents of Israel of the same name.
In one of the oddest twists of the unfolding tale so far, two of the "Australians" – Korman and McCabe – apparently traveled by boat to Iran after conducting what Dubai officials said was a reconnaissance trip to Dubai in August 2009. Dubai has not released the name of the vessel, the port in Iran it was headed for, or its International Maritime Organization identification number, which would make it possible to determine the ship's movements and whether it stopped in other ports before reaching Iran.
The Monitor incorrectly reported yesterday that Dubai had claimed the pair had fled to Iran after the assassination in January, based on some confusion in the documents released by Dubai. In fact, Dubai said Korman and McCabe had traveled to Dubai from Hong Kong on Aug. 20, 2009 and traveled by ship to Iran on Aug. 25. The man traveling as "Korman" returned to Dubai with an alleged 22 other members of the team on Jan. 18, 2010 from Rome, and departed by plane for Hong Kong in the early morning of Jan. 20. McCabe did not apparently return after the August trip, according to documents released by Dubai.
In addition to McCabe, three other people -- all traveling on false British passports -- traveled to Dubai in June and November of 2009 but did not appear to return for the eventual hit. Dubai has made its allegations based on closed circuit video of what it says were the hit squad's surveillance activities in Dubai.