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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized in early January the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, according to a report published in the Sunday Times.

Based on information obtained from "sources with knowledge of Mossad," the paper reported that Netanyahu gave Mossad chief Meir Dagan the green light for the Dubai operation during a meeting at the Midrasha - the intelligence agency's headquarters, in the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv.

The sources also said that the Mossad hit squad trained for the Dubai mission by secretly rehearsing in a Tel Aviv hotel.

Netanyahu reportedly told the Mossad agents, "The people of Israel count on you. Good luck."

Meanwhile, Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim said that an internal Hamas source leaked information to Mabhouh's assassins that led to his killing, Israel Radio reported.

Speaking to Persian newspaper Gulf News, Tamim said that the aide, whose identity was not revealed, was the only person who knew about Mabhouh's visit to the emirate.

Meanwhile, Hamas on Saturday again blamed Israel again for the hit. At a press conference, Salah al-Bardawil, one of the group's Gaza-based leaders, said he does not suspect that the Palestinian Authority was involved in the killing and that the entire affair was the responsibility of Mossad.

However, the Hamas official said the two Palestinians arrested in Dubai in connection with the killing are former officers in the Palestinian security services, and were employed by a firm owned by a senior member of rival Fatah.

The London-based newspaper Al-Hayat reported that this company is owned by Mohammed Dahlan, formerly a Fatah strongman in the Gaza Strip before its takeover by Hamas two and a half years ago.

Bardawil also said that Mabhouh had put himself at risk by booking his trip through the Internet and risked a security breach by telling his family in Gaza by telephone which hotel he would be staying at.

Also Saturday, the daily newspaper Al-Bayan reported that Dubai police had new evidence implicating the Mossad in Mabhouh's assassination, which included credit-card payments and suspects' phone records.

"Dubai police have information confirming that the suspects purchased travel tickets from companies in other countries with credit cards carrying the same names we have publicized [from the passports]," Al-Bayan quoted Dubai police chief Tamim as saying.