What makes the security camera shots released last night by the Dubai police interesting is the professionalism exhibited by the suspected assassins of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
They arrived on separate flights from different destinations; one of them flew in via Munich and Qatar. They stayed in different hotels and were careful to make phone calls using international routers. They wore clothing that makes them difficult to identify. One is seen with a mustache and a hat, others wearing hats and glasses. They try, throughout, to appear to be innocent tourists or business people, there to enjoy themselves and even play some tennis.
On the basis of the video clips and the information provided by Dubai police officers investigating the murder, the assassination squad involved 10 men carrying British, French, German and Irish passports. A woman carrying an Irish passport was also captured by the cameras.
The Dubai authorities claim there were two teams: one carried out surveillance of the target, while the other - which appears to be a group of younger men, at least as far as the camera shots show - carried out the killing.
Contrary to reports, the squad did not break into Mabhouh's hotel room, nor did they knock on the door. They entered the room using copies of keys they had somehow acquired.
The Dubai police chief says it is not unlikely that the assassination teams were made up of Mossad agents.
The bits of information and the camera images suggest methods used by the Mossad that Mishka Ben-David wrote about in detail in his novel "Duet in Beirut." Ben-David, who served as the intelligence officer for the Caesarea operations branch of the Mossad, insists that his novel is a work of fiction. However, it is obvious to all that the experience he accumulated in the Mossad over the years appears in his book.
"Duet in Beirut" is very similar to the failed attempt in 1997 to assassinate Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal in Jordan. Ben-David describes the Mossad agents, changing hotels, changing vehicles, arriving from different destinations, and changing clothes and appearances in order to make identification difficult.
Two of the suspects are seen changing clothes on the security camera footage in Dubai. The actual capture of the suspects on film may reveal their identities - and even suggest only partial success of the operation.
However, it is clear that whoever they are, they knew ahead of time that in an era when terror is a global threat, security measures have also expanded considerably. Anyone embarking on an international operation of this sort takes into account that nearly every hotel, airport and basically any public building is equipped with security cameras working 24/7. Those on such a mission consider this as part of their calculated risks and do their best to distort their appearance.
In any case, if the police in Dubai manage to receive the information from Interpol regarding the suspects' passports, they will reveal fictitious names and possibly forged passports. Therefore the information will do little for the investigation.
The only weak point that may lead to the identification of the group behind the assassination is the arrest in Dubai of two Palestinians. According to Dubai police, the two were linked to the operation and provided logistical information. Even if they are connected to the killing, we can assume that they know very little that would help identify the perpetrators. Such operations involve stringent compartmentalization, not only among the members of the teams, but also with those assisting them and who may have provided information that allowed them to actually carry out the assassination.
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