Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have authorized Mossad agents to assassinate Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January, according to a report in the British paper the Sunday Times.
While there has been much speculation that Israel’s spy agency carried out the hit, so far Israeli government officials have not confirmed their country’s involvement in the assassination.
If Israel is officially held responsible for the operation, it could further inflame tensions both in and outside Israel, as there are increasing questions about whether Israel overstepped its bounds with this operation
Upon hearing the details of the proposed operation during a meeting with Mossad chief Meir Dagan and members of the alleged hit squad, Mr. Netanyahu approved the assassination, reports the Sunday Times, citing unnamed sources it says have knowledge of the Mossad.
Mossad is now deeply embarrassed. Its use of the identities of British, French, German, and Irish nationals as cover for agents to carry out the hit has angered western governments. In the ensuing diplomatic fall-out, sources close to Mossad said yesterday that it had suspended similar operations in the Middle East, mainly because of fear that heightened security would put its agents at greater risk. Dagan’s job is also on the line.
However, [sic] few believe that Mossad will give up the secret war it has long waged against Israel’s enemies.
Dubai police officers have also discovered that a Hamas insider may have leaked information about al-Mabhouh's trip the United Arab Emirates that enabled Mossad to carry out the operation, reports the Israeli daily, Haaretz. The Hamas official was reported to be the only person with knowledge of al-Mabhouh’s travel plans. Another Hamas official said that two Palestinians arrested in Dubai for potential links to the killings had worked previously as security officers for a company with ties to Hamas’s rival, Fatah.
Hamas officials also added that al-Mabhouh put his own life at risk by breeching security protocols. Prior to departing for Dubai, he discussed his travel plans over the telephone and booked his hotel room online, which the Hamas official said allowed his assassins to easily track his movements, reports The National.
“Al Mabhouh called his family by phone before he travelled to Dubai and told them of his plan to stay in a specific hotel, and he booked his travel through the internet,” Salah Bardawil, a Hamas legislator, told a press conference in Gaza. “This undoubtedly created a security breach.”
The Mossad agents had allegedly practiced the assassination at a hotel in Tel Aviv before carrying out the Dubai operation. Although the agents knew they were being filmed on closed circuit cameras in the hotel, The Jerusalem Post reports that the spy agency was surprised by Dubai security officials’ ability to compile the footage into a coherent narrative.
Meanwhile, as international controversy continues to brew about the killing, The Los Angeles Times sought the opinion of several experts on military and human rights experts about the legality of the killing. Many of the experts said that the killing was likely illegal.
“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. Political murders of this type undermine the fabric of international law as well as stoke the fires of conflict,” [said Philip Alston U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings].