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Middle east

France joins calls for explanation from Israel over Hamas murder

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-02-18

France on Thursday joined British and Irish calls for Israel to answer questions on the alleged use of Western passports in connection with the murder of a Hamas leader in Dubai. Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for the 11 suspects.

France on Thursday joined British and Irish calls for answers from Israel regarding the alleged use of Western passports in connection with the January murder of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel room.

The French Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that it was looking for an “explanation” from Israel after speculation that the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, may have been behind the killing. “We are asking the Israeli embassy in France for an explanation regarding the use of a false French passport in connection with the assassination,” a ministry statement said.
Pressure has been mounting on Israel following the killing of Hamas military commander Mahmud al-Mabhuh, who was found dead in his ground floor room at the Al Bustan Rotana hotel on Jan. 20. London and Dublin called in their Israeli ambassadors for talks on Thursday over the use of British and Irish passports by the suspected killers when travelling to or from Dubai to carry out the killing.
International hit squad
The passport affair came to light after Dubai’s police chief, Dahi Khalfan Tamim, released the names and photos of 11 European passport holders – six from Britain, three from Ireland, one from Germany and one from France – who he alleged were members of a hit squad targeting the Hamas military leader. Interpol issued an arrest warrant for the 10 men and one woman suspected in the assassination on Thursday.   
Shortly after Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor met with the head of the British diplomatic service, Foreign Office permanent secretary Peter Ricketts, on Thursday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he expected Israel to “cooperate fully” with the investigation that Britain has launched into the incident.
"We want to get to the bottom of the issue of the fraudulent passports," Miliband said, adding: “That is the most important thing for us.” 
All of the nations involved in the passport affair except Germany reacted to the news by saying the travel documents were falsified. The six Britons whose passports were used had immigrated to Israel and have denied ever having been to the United Arab Emirates.
The French Foreign Ministry reiterated on Thursday that it believes the French travel document involved was falsified. “What we have in our possession leads us [to] the conclusion that the passport in question was a fake,” an online ministry statement said.
The Irish Foreign Ministry released a statement after initial "frank" talks between Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin and the country's Israeli envoy, Zion Evrony, saying that it took "grave exception to the forgery and misuse of Irish passports, which could devalue the standing of the passports and potentially put at risk the safety of Irish citizens." The ministry had added that Evrony had said he had “no information on the matter”.
But on Wednesday, Martin said that new information from the United Arab Emirates reveals that the passports used may have been authentic. "The new information ... indicates that genuine Irish passport numbers were used," he said.  
In an interview with the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan on Thursday, Tamim insisted that the passports used by the suspects were not fakes and that Dubai immigration officers were "trained" by European security experts to spot forgeries.
Mossad suspected
The modus operandi of al-Mabhuh’s murder has led to speculation that the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, may have been behind the killing as Mossad is known to have used Western passports in past operations. Canada vehemently protested after Canadian passports were used in the organisation’s botched 1997 attempt to poison Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal in Amman, Jordan.
Tamim said he was almost certain that Mossad was behind the murder. In an interview with The National, an Abu Dhabi-based English-language daily, Tamim said his team’s investigation into the killing implicated the Israeli intelligence service. “It is 99 percent, if not 100 percent, that Mossad is standing behind the murder," he told the paper.
But Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier that there was no evidence pointing to Israel’s involvement. "There is no reason to think that it was the Israeli Mossad, and not some other intelligence service or country up to some mischief," Lieberman told Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday.
Lieberman said Israel has a “policy of ambiguity” on intelligence issues. Israel usually neither confirms nor denies speculation about Mossad activities.
Hamas has claimed that al-Mabhuh was behind the 1989 kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers. Israel also suspects him of smuggling Iranian arms into Gaza. 



Date created : 2010-02-18


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