The brazen 2010 assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai, in which Israel's Mossad was accused, unfurled like a spy movie thriller — and in fact much of it was caught on camera. Now an Israeli movie plays it as a spy caper, complete with a sly seductress played by Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli.
The movie "Kidon", or Spear, gives the plot a twist by having a small-time gang of criminals murder Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in an attempt to frame Israel's Mossad spy agency.
Dubai police accused the Mossad of carrying out the actual hit in a five-star hotel, and released surveillance camera footage of the assassination team tracking al-Mabhouh. A number of countries also cast suspicion on Israel, angrily accusing its intelligence agency of forging passports under their citizens' names for the killers to use. Israel and the Mossad, as is their policy, never confirmed or denied involvement.
"The movie is not a documentary and it's not a history movie. It's my take on the al-Mabhouh story," said Emmanuel Nakash, the movie's French-Israeli director. Kidon is the supposed name of the Mossad's assassination unit.
Refaeli plays Einav Schwartz, an Israeli temptress whose role is to lure al-Mabhouh into the assassins' trap.
For the film, a French-Israeli production, a glitzy hotel in the Israeli resort city of Eilat served as the Dubai hotel. The characters are all fictional, except for al-Mabhouh, a Hamas leader in exile who helped smuggle weapons to militants in the Gaza Strip and who was wanted for capturing and killing two Israeli soldiers in the late 1980s.
In one scene, Refaeli, decked out in a revealing leopard-print dress and flipping her blonde hair, catches al-Mabhouh's eye by the hotel bar. He takes the bait, orders a drink, they have a chat and then slink out together, the hotel surveillance cameras filming them as they go.
Refaeli, best known for gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition and being the former longtime girlfriend of Leonardo DiCaprio, has made the crossover from modeling to acting before. She starred in the 2011 thriller "Session" and appeared in the Israeli TV series "Pick Up."
But she said "Kidon" is giving her a taste of a job she really wants: working as an agent for Israel's notorious spy agency.
"I would love to be in the Mossad and maybe I am. Who knows? I think that being a famous model is the best cover," Refaeli told reporters.
In the Dubai killing, the hit team — including two women — entered the Persian Gulf city undetected on foreign passports, pulled off the highly complex operation, then escaped the country unscathed.
There was no indication of a bar room seduction. Using the hotel camera footage, Dubai police outlined a 19-hour operation, where the agents, wearing disguises such as fake beards, wigs and tennis attire, kept close watch on al-Mabhouh, prowling the elevator and hallways before slipping into his room and killing him.
Forensic tests indicated he was first injected in the thigh with a fast-acting, hard-to-detect muscle relaxant. Then he was suffocated with a pillow, Dubai police said.
The photos on the assassins' doctored passports were released by Dubai police and published worldwide, as were their 26 aliases. More than half of the names turned out to belong to real-life dual nationals living in Israel, some of whom claimed their identities had been stolen.
Several of Israel's important allies, including Britain, Ireland and Australia, threw out Israeli diplomats in protest over the use of their nations' passports. But the diplomatic fallout was largely contained.
On the set at the Eilat hotel, extras wearing traditional Arab garb strolled around the lobby speaking in Hebrew as others dressed as heavily made-up cocktail waitresses looked bored between takes.
The $5.2 million film is expected to hit theaters in France and Israel next year.
The hotel footage of the real operation was a boon for actor Shredy Jabarin, who studied it meticulously for his portrayal of al-Mabhouh.
"I saw a sharpness, a lot of caution, like an animal with many instincts. If you watch the video, he gets out of the elevator, looks right, looks left, checks the area, like a robot," said Jabarin.
Refaeli said Israelis are used to hearing about covert operations blamed on the Mossad, but the al-Mabhouh killing was the most sensational, making it perfect fodder for a film.
"This specific one sounded like a movie scene," Refaeli told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the set. "It was just like reading a script."
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