Britain says 'compelling' evidence Israel linked to Dubai assassination

Britain Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Tuesday that 12 British passports used in the Dubai assassination plot were forged when they were handed over to Israel for inspection.

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband speaks in the House of Commons Tuesday after Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat over the alleged use of forged UK passports in the Dubai assassination of a Hamas operative in a suspected Mossad hit.

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Tuesday that there are "compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible" for the forging of British passports used in the Dubai assassination of a Hamas official.

“The passports used were copied from genuine British passports when handed over for inspection” to Israel, Mr. Miliband told Parliament. It is "highly likely (the forgeries) were made by a state intelligence service,” he said.

Miliband's comments, together with his promised expulsion of a diplomat from Israel's London Embassy, offer the first apparent confirmation of Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan’s claim that Israel was involved in the Jan. 19 attack.

“This just gives credibility to what Dahi Khalfan already said, that he was 99 percent sure” that Mossad carried out the attack, says Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a politicial scientist at Emirates University in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Dubai police set off chain of international investigation

Dubai police pointed the finger at Israel more than a month ago for the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior member of the Palestinian militant group who Israel alleged helped smuggle guns from Iran to Gaza.

Police released detailed video footage that showed the suspects following Mabhouh at the Dubai airport and at his hotel.

They identified 27 suspects who had entered the UAE using fake passports from Britain, Australia, Ireland, France, and Germany. Many of the names on the passports belonged to Israeli dual nationals.

Interpol, the international policing body, has deemed the evidence gathered by the Dubai police (including material not made public) credible enough to issue arrest notices for all 27 suspects and join an international task force on the investigation.

While several governments are also looking into the matter, none but Dubai had mentioned Israel in connection with the killing until now.

On Feb. 22, the European Union issued a statement condemning the use of faked passports but did not mention Israel. Countries whose travel documents were forged summoned Israeli envoys to discuss the matter. Australia and Britain sent teams to Israel to look into the forgeries, meeting with dual citizens whose identities had been stolen.

The findings of the investigation led to Britain’s actions on Tuesday.

Message to Israel wasn't strong enough – analyst

While the announcement will offer validation to Dubai, Professor Abdulla says it could have sent a stronger message to Israel.

“This is just the minimum we would expect from the British government,” he says. “For a country that has [so many of] its passports stolen, you need some strong message of displeasure to be announced.”

Miliband said Britain had offered biometric passports to all 12 of its citizens whose identities were stolen. Britain is also rolling out biometric passports for all citizens.

“The actions in this case are completely unacceptable and they must stop,” said Miliband.

He said he handed Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman a letter yesterday asking that Israel confirm it would “never be party” to such an act again.

The announcement is ill-timed for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in Washington today for talks with President Obama amid unusually high tensions in the US-Israel relationship.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.