Mossad murder

Print edition : March 26, 2010

REUTERS

THE murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas functionary, at a hotel in Dubai on January 20 once again brings Israels disregard for international law into the limelight. Mabhouh was one of the founders of the military wing of Hamas. Though the Israeli government has not formally taken responsibility for the killing, officials in Dubai have provided irrefutable proof that it was the handiwork of the notorious Mossad, Israels external intelligence service.

The Dubai authorities have issued warrants for premeditated murder and asked Interpol for help to catch the suspects, whose pictures have been released to the international media. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is among the so-called moderate Arab countries that have good informal relations with Israel. In fact, an official Israeli delegation was in Dubai a week before the assassination.

Evidence gathered by the Dubai police has shown that at least 26 persons, including five women, were involved in the killing. Dubai has extradition treaties with the countries whose passports the Mossad assassins used to enter the emirate. Most of them used passports issued by European Union (E.U.) countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Ireland. When this fact came to light, the E.U. was forced to ask for an explanation from its close ally, Israel, on the identity thefts involved in the use of E.U. passports.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked for a full investigation into the use of fraudulent British passports by the killer squad. In 1987, Margaret Thatchers government got an undertaking from the Israeli government that the Mossad would not use forged British passports for its covert activities. This was after eight forged British passports were inadvertently left behind in a West German phone booth by a Mossad agent.

In 2005, New Zealand jailed two Israeli secret service agents for obtaining the countrys passports illegally. There are many who believe that the Mossad could only have counterfeited E.U. passports with help from Western intelligence agencies. Hamas, despite having popular electoral mandate, is classified as a terrorist entity by most governments in the West. The intense security cooperation between Israel and European governments is also well known. Articles in the Israeli media point out that the European governments which claim to be agitated about the misuse of their passports are secretly happy about the elimination of the Hamas leader.

In late February, the Dubai authorities discovered that three Australian passports had also been used. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that his country will not be silent on the matter and will not leave a single stone unturned to get to the bottom of the issue.

Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow of Chatham House in London, said that the European governments wanted the issue to die quietly. The Israeli establishment is also highlighting the fact that Arab governments such as Jordan and Egypt are also engaged in a secret war against Hamas. The fraudulent credit cards used by the Mossad team were issued in the United States. There is no news yet about the American authorities cooperating with the Dubai authorities or Interpol in the investigations surrounding the killing.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, while not directly admitting to the Mossads role, said that the countrys policy of ambiguity in such cases was correct.

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was more open. She praised the Mossad for a job well done in Dubai. Tzipi Livni was recently forced to cancel a visit to London after a British court issued an arrest warrant against her for allegedly committing war crimes during the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008. Britains The Sunday Times, quoting unnamed sources, reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had authorised the mission and met with the hit squad shortly before it undertook its mission.

The killing in Dubai has taken place at time when there is a growing demand in the international community for Israel to be taken to the war crimes tribunal for the massacre of civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

In this CCTV image released by the Dubai police, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh is being followed by his alleged killers on his way to his hotel room.-REUTERS

Even within Israel, questions are being asked about the Mossad and the governments tendency to ride roughshod over international law. After the faces of the members of the assassination squad and the passports they used were shown on international television, there have been demands in Israel for Meir Dagan, the long-serving chief of the Mossad, to step down. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz commented after the Dubai incident: Determined to take our fate into its own hands, Israel has decided that the job of delegitimising the Jewish state must not be left to foreigners and amateurs. Showing itself desperate to be a pariah state, Israel will now get it done on its own.

The killing could reveal the extent of the Mossads infiltration into the Fatah, which is in charge of the Palestinian Authority, and probably Hamas. The Dubai authorities have already arrested three Fatah functionaries and have written to Hamas officials demanding information about a close associate of the victims.

Dubai officials claim that a Hamas official in Damascus had leaked information to the Mossad about Mabhouhs visit to Dubai. The Fatah members under arrest are said to be close associates of a former Fatah security chief, Mahmoud Dahlan. Dahlan was ousted from Gaza after he led an attempt to dislodge the popularly elected Hamas-led government.

This is not the first time that Netanyahu has been involved in a Mossad misadventure. In an earlier stint as Prime Minister, he authorised a hit on the Hamas leader in exile, Khalid Meshal, in the Jordanian capital, Amman, in 1997.

The two-man Mossad hit squad, using forged Canadian passports, succeeded in poisoning Meshal with a deadly toxin. It was only the direct intervention of the late King Hussein of Jordan that saved Meshal from death. The monarch threatened to cut diplomatic links with Tel Aviv if an antidote for the poison was not immediately despatched to Amman. To stave off diplomatic and political disaster, Netanyahu had to comply.

As part of the deal, the Israeli Prime Minister had to release Sheikh Mohammed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, from an Israeli jail. To get his agents back safely, Netanyahu had also to acknowledge publicly Israels role in the assassination attempt. The Mossads ham-handed actions made Meshal an internationally known figure and also seriously dented the infallible image of the Mossad, much of it a creation of the Western media and Hollywood films.

Hamas leader Khalid Meshal speaks during the funeral procession for Mabhouh (picture in the background) in Damascus on January 31. Meshal himself was targeted by the Mossad earlier, in Amman.-KHALED AL-HARIRI/REUTERS

The Mossad was established in 1951 with the stated aim of providing the first line of defence for the newly formed Jewish nation. It first came into international prominence with the kidnapping of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Argentina in 1960. The Argentine government complained at the time that its sovereignty had been violated. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution after the incident, stating that such acts if repeated could endanger international peace and security. But history has shown that Israel has scant respect for Security Council resolutions or, for that matter, international law.

Many innocent people have been killed in Mossad operations abroad. Ahmed Bouchiki, a Moroccan waiter, was killed in front of his pregnant wife in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1973. He was mistaken for Ali Hassan Salameh, a leader of the Palestinian group Black September, which claimed responsibility for the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The Mossad agents involved in those killing carried fake Norwegian passports. They were arrested but released after serving a few months in prison.

Their next high-profile killing was that of the Palestine Liberation Organisation military chief Khalil Al Wazir, popularly known as Abu Jihad, in Tunis in 1988. He was second-in-command to Yasser Arafat. Thirty Israeli agents took part in the operation; 70 bullets were pumped into the Palestinian leader in front of his wife and children. If he were alive today, Abu Jihad would have been the leader of the Palestinian Authority. Other important Palestinian leaders killed by the Mossad are the Hamas leaders Yahya Ayyash, in the Gaza Strip in 1996, and Izz El-Deen Sheikh Khalil, in Damascus in 2004. Again in Damascus, the Mossad scored a high-profile hit when the Hizbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh was blown up in his car in 2008.

Within the occupied territories, Israel, of course, carries out targeted killings of Palestinian leaders it does not want to do business with. Many Palestinians believe that Arafat was poisoned by the Mossad. Arafats personal physician had said that poisoning is a strong possibility. The use of poison that cannot be easily detected is one of the Mossads specialities.

Lethal nerve toxin, which is absorbed through the skin, was blown into Meshals ear by the Mossad agents. The poison had been used successfully before to eliminate many functionaries of the Palestinian resistance.

Meshal, reacting to the killing of Mabhouh, said in the third week of February that talks about revenge are over, execution time is here. He demanded that the international community add Israel to the list of countries that propagate terror. Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, said that a decision to seek revenge had already been made. Our mission is to punish you and your mission is to continue living under the fear of our response, he said at a conference held in the Gaza Strip. Meshal told the London-based newspaper Al Hayat that future wars against Israel would not remain confined to the Gaza Strip.

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