The Dubai police all but accused Israel on Thursday of organizing the sensational murder here last month of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud Mabhouh, heaping even more pressure on the country over the increasingly high-profile assassination.
“Our investigations reveal that [Israeli spy agency] Mossad is involved in the murder of al Mabhouh. It is 99 percent, if not 100 percent, that Mossad is standing behind the murder,” Dubai Police Chief Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim told The National newspaper.
“All elements strongly indicate the involvement of the Mossad,” he told another local paper, Gulf News, on Wednesday.
Tamim did not elaborate on any evidence that might have led to this conclusion.
Earlier this week, Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), released closed-circuit video footage of what it described as an 11-member assassination team. Dubai said the footage shows the assassins wearing wigs and pretending to be tennis playing tourists as they tracked Mr. Mabhouh at his hotel, where he was murdered. Dubai also released pictures of the alleged assassins and the European passports they traveled on, most of which have since been called forgeries by Ireland and Britain.
The forged passports, and the fact that about six of them appear to have been made with identities stolen from British and Irish immigrants to Israel, has strained Israel's diplomatic relationship with the UK and Ireland, which summoned Israeli diplomats to discuss the matter on Thursday.
Israel under pressure
In addition to Irish and British passports, fake French and German passports appear to have been used as well.
The Dubai police had earlier threatened to arrest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself if Mossad were found to be involved in the Jan. 20 killing of Mabhouh, who helped found Hamas’s militant wing and was wanted in Israel for helping to kidnap and kill two Israeli soldiers.
Dubai has limited leverage over Israel because it does not have official relations, but it can exert pressure in other ways, says Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist at Emirates University in Al Ain. “They go public with the information. That’s their way of warning.”
In addition to distributing the 11 suspects’ photos on Interpol, the authorities will also make public their eye scans, which are routinely taken at the airport, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported. The police have identified at least 6 more suspects, according to media reports, and arrested two Palestinians.
Palestinian spies involved?
Not everyone is convinced, however, that Mossad carried out the attack, citing how careless the suspects were about being filmed, and pointing instead to possible inter-Palestinian rivalries.
As a practice, the spy agency neither accepts nor denies responsibility for operations.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday that the two Palestinians being held in connection with the murder worked for Palestinian intelligence and for the Palestinian Authority. The paper named the men as Ahmad Hasnin, a Palestinian intelligence operative, and Anwar Shekhaiber, an employee of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.
Both had lived in the Gaza Strip until 2007, then moved to Dubai and worked for a real estate company owned by a “senior official” of Fatah, the Palestinian group that controls the West Bank and is a bitter rival of Hamas, which controls Gaza. The two were arrested in Amman, Jordan, and extradited to the UAE.