Factbox: A brief history of Israeli espionage scandals

Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:55am EST

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(Reuters) - Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday there was no proof that the Mossad spy agency assassinated a Hamas commander in Dubai, despite the suspected hit squad's use of the identities of foreign-born Israelis.

Few Israeli commentators, however, appeared to doubt the Mossad had a role in the January 20 death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, which became a cause celebre after Hamas demanded a murder investigation.

Here are some previous international scandals involving Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies.

* 1954 - Egypt cracks Israeli Military Intelligence cell of Egyptian Jews who firebombed sites frequented by Westerners to embarrass Cairo and stop it nationalizing the Suez Canal. Two are hanged, one commits suicide and six others are jailed. Israeli Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon quits, though denies authorizing plot.

* 1963 - Swiss police arrest an Israeli and an Austrian after a German scientist's daughter accuses them of threatening her -- part of a Mossad intimidation campaign against Germans suspected of helping an Egyptian missile program. Mossad chief Issar Harel resigns. Detainees are freed after a few months.

* 1967 - Two suspected Mossad officers arrested in Germany while breaking into a home believed to belong to a former official of the Nazi Gestapo. They are released as a goodwill gesture to Israel after the 1967 Middle East war.

* 1973 - Mossad assassins shoot dead a Moroccan-born waiter in Norway, mistaking him for one of the Palestinian masterminds of an attack on the 1972 Munich Olympics in which 11 Israeli athletes died. Five Mossad officers are tried, but eventually released. Israel offers compensation to the waiter's family.

* 1985 - U.S. Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard is arrested for passing intelligence to Lakam, an Israeli agency specializing in scientific cooperation. Israel apologizes to the United States and dismantles Lakam. Pollard is sentenced to life in prison.

* 1987 - Britain protests to Israel about what London calls the misuse by "Israeli authorities" of forged British passports, and says it received assurances there would be no recurrence.

* 1991 - Four Israelis are arrested during an apparent attempt to bug the Iranian embassy in Cyprus. They are released for lack of evidence.

* 1997 - Two Mossad assassins are captured by Jordanian authorities after a failed attempt to kill Khaled Meshaal, a leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas. They are sent home after Israel frees jailed Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin.

* 1998 - A group of Israelis is discovered trying to tap the phones of a suspected Lebanese Hezbollah militant in Switzerland. In a closed-door trial, one Israeli, described in the media as a Mossad officer, is fined and given a suspended jail sentence. His three accomplices are released.

- In Cyprus, two suspected Mossad officers are arrested and charged with spying on sensitive military installations. They are released after nine months in prison under a plea bargain.

* 2004 - Two Israelis are sentenced to six months in jail by an Auckland court after they admit trying to obtain a New Zealand passport fraudulently. Wellington suspects they are from the Mossad and suspends relations with Israel in protest. A year later, Israel apologizes to New Zealand, which restores ties.

* 2010 - UAE police say they issued international arrest warrants for suspects in the killing of Mabhouh, who include German, British, French and Irish passport-holders. Two Palestinians are also held by the UAE for suspected complicity.

(Writing by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Additional writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; editing by David Stamp)

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