Israel sees little fallout from Dubai killing

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli intelligence experts dismissed on Sunday the prospect of lasting diplomatic fallout for Israel or damage to its Mossad spy agency over the spotlight shone on the assassination of a Hamas commander in Dubai.

A Palestinian supporter of Hamas holds a picture of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas military commander, during his funeral at al-Yarmouk camp near Damascus January 29, 2010. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

“The bottom line is that an important deed was done, by whomever, in the war on terrorism,” Uzi Dayan, an ex-general and former head of Israel’s National Security Council, said on Army Radio.

However, Dubai police have said they are virtually certain that Mossad carried out the killing, and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed vowed on Sunday to bring those responsible to justice.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman could face sharp questions from British and Irish counterparts in Brussels on Monday over the alleged use of forged European passports by a hit squad that killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on January 19.

Citing a policy of “ambiguity” with regard to its intelligence activities, Israel has neither confirmed nor denied Hamas allegations that a Mossad team was responsible.

“I intend ... to underline our deep concern about the fake use of passports in Dubai and to seek reassurance and clarification on this very serious issue,” Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin told the Irish Times on Friday.

Britain and Ireland called in the Israeli ambassadors last week to discuss the issue, but received little in the way of explanation. The ambassador in London, Ron Prosor, said he was “unable to assist” the British with more information.


France and Germany have also asked Israel for an explanation, but the French and German foreign ministers are not scheduled to attend Monday’s foreign ministers’ meeting, and it is not clear whether Lieberman will meet their deputies.

Although six Britons in Israel, who said they were identity theft victims, had the same names of members of the alleged hit squad, Israel seemed confident in its no-smoking-gun approach.

“No one recalled his ambassador (to Israel). No one expelled anybody,” Dayan said, calling for an investigation into the type of passport Mabhouh used to enter Dubai.

Hamas, an Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, is shunned by the West for rejecting its calls to recognize Israel and renounce violence. Hamas acknowledged that Mabhouh smuggled weapons for it.

Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas official, told the Jordanian newspaper Al-Sabeel that the movement “has formed a high-level investigation committee” to try to discover “how the Mossad was able to carry out the operation.”

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, speaking on Saturday, said he did not expect a diplomatic crisis with Europe over the killing “because there is nothing linking Israel to the assassination.”

“Britain, France and Germany are countries with shared interests with Israel in countering terrorism,” Ayalon said.

In a speech on Friday, Israeli President Shimon Peres made no mention of the Dubai assassination, but he highlighted the importance of cooperation among security services in what he described as efforts “to stop terror.”

“The secret relations among the security organizations are more open, and more meaningful, than the diplomatic ones,” Peres said.

In the United Arab Emirates, the state news agency WAM said UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash summoned European Union ambassadors to brief them on the case seek their support in the investigation.

Mishka Ben-David, a former Mossad operative, said the 11 suspected hit squad members -- some wearing beards and eyeglasses in photos released by Dubai -- could easily get back into the field after changing their look.

“These people can do almost anything because if you take any of the pictures you saw and make slight adjustments to their appearance, they can fly abroad under another name and no one will give them a second glance,” he told Army Radio.

Additional reporting by Luke Baker in Brussels and Raissa Kasolowsky in Dubai, Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton