The Dubai police have accused the Mossad of being behind last month's assassination of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh - the first time Dubai has accused Israel explicitly.
Also yesterday, Interpol issued red wanted notices requesting the arrest of the 11 alleged assassins, whose photographs were gleaned from security cameras by the Dubai police and have been posted on Interpol's Web site.
A wanted notice is not yet an international arrest warrant but rather a request that other countries arrest and extradite the suspect. The alleged assassins are wanted for "crimes against life and health."
Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai's police chief, said yesterday that "our investigations reveal that Mossad is involved in the murder of al-Mabhouh. It is 99 percent, if not 100 percent, that Mossad is standing behind the murder."
He said the police had other evidence beyond the video clips they have already released and that the next few days would bring many surprising developments. He also said that if the Mossad proved responsible for the operation, he would seek an international arrest warrant for its chief, Meir Dagan.
Two Palestinians suspected of being accomplices in the murder are currently under arrest in Dubai; Haaretz has learned that the two are Anwar Shekhaiber and Ahmad Hasnin, both originally from the Gaza Strip. At one time, they were members of the Palestinian Authority's security forces in Gaza, but after Hamas took over the Strip in June 2007, they fled to the West Bank and eventually moved to Dubai. The London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported yesterday that both men worked for a real estate firm belonging to a senior Fatah official.
Hamas claims that the senior Fatah official in question visited Dubai after the two were arrested and tried to persuade the authorities to release them, but without success. Al-Hayat quoted a senior Hamas official as saying that the two provided logistical aid to the alleged Mossad team, including by renting cars and hotel rooms for them.
The Wall Street Journal, citing sources in the United Arab Emirates, reported that five of the 11 suspects used credit cards issued by an American bank for buy their plane tickets, among other outlays. However, the U.S. State Department has not yet demanded any clarifications from Israel, as the four European countries whose passports were forged by the assassins have done.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry is trying to cope with the diplomatic fallout. But though the Israeli ambassadors in both London and Dublin were summoned for clarification meetings on Wednesday, the assessment in Jerusalem yesterday was that no major diplomatic crisis was likely with any of the countries whose passports were forged.
"At this stage, there is no evidence linking Israel to the incident, and if that continues, the affair will subside quickly," one senior Israeli official predicted. Nevertheless, he added, Israeli diplomats and intelligence personnel will hold additional conversations about the case with their British counterparts over the next few days.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the use of forged British passports an "outrage" yesterday and said he expected an explanation from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The two men are due to meet in Brussels on Monday and will presumably discuss the incident. But British Prime Minister Gordon Brown cautioned that first the affair must be investigated, and only then should conclusions be drawn.
Israeli Ambassador to London Ron Prosor met for 20 minutes yesterday with Sir Peter Ricketts, the head of Britain's diplomatic service. According to Israeli diplomats, the senior Foreign Office official expressed concern over the incident, and particularly over the fact that the identities of real British citizens living in Israel were apparently stolen. But the meeting was calm and businesslike.
Ricketts also said that Britain expects to receive any information Israel has on the case and wants to know whether Israel was indeed involved. Prosor said he would pass this request on to the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem.
After the meeting, Prosor said he had been unable to shed any new light on the incident, but in line with diplomatic protocol, he could not reveal what was said at the meeting.
A similar meeting took place yesterday between Israeli Ambassador to Dublin Zion Evrony and the secretary general of Ireland's Foreign Ministry, David Cooney.
The German and French governments have also asked Israel for any information it has about who was behind the forged passports.
The Israeli citizens whose identities were stolen are also still trying to deal with the fallout. One of them, Melvyn Adam Mildiner of Beit Shemesh, has been hiding at home since the news broke, and his wife said their children are feeling very pressured and bewildered by the sudden interest in their father.
Another, Paul Keeley, decided to leave his home on Kibbutz Nachsholim for a few days and visit relatives in the center of the country to escape the journalists who have been besieging him for the past two days.
Yesterday, when one journalist entered the kibbutz and asked for Keeley's house, an angry resident responded, "leave him alone. Give the poor man a little quiet."
A friend said that Keeley's father still lives in England and that is how he found out that his identity had been used - when his father read it in the paper. "I understand that he [Paul] is now afraid to leave the country," the friend added.
"I've heard that Paul is planning to sue the state, and rightly so," added another kibbutz member. "How can it be that a person sits at home, lives only to support his family and they accuse him of an assassination overseas? We on the kibbutz all laughed over it, but for Paul, it's a nightmare."
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