West turns diplomatic screw – but Israel refuses to crack

'We know nothing', say ambassadors called for talks over how assassins who killed Hamas leader were holding foreign passports
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The Independent Online

Dubai yesterday explicitly accused Mossad of assassinating Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on its soil, as David Miliband declared the use of British passports in the plot "an outrage" and demanded "full co-operation" from Israel in finding out what had happened.

The Foreign Secretary's comments came after an apparently fruitless meeting in London between the Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor and Sir Peter Ricketts, the permanent secretary who heads Britain's diplomatic service, which lasted just 14 minutes with no sign of any intelligence being shared. As the Israeli envoy left Whitehall, he said: "I was unable to add any information. I could not shed new light on the said matters".

There was a similar outcome in Dublin where the Israeli ambassador, Zion Evrony, had an hour's meeting with a senior Irish diplomat over how three Eire passports were used in the assassination. "I told him I know nothing about the event," Mr Evrony said afterwards.

The international fallout into Mabhouh's death showed no sign of abating. In Paris, the French government also summoned an Israeli diplomat, and Germany – often seen as one of the West European countries most sympathetic to Israel – called on Israel to "provide any information it had which might help explain the circumstances" of the Hamas militant's death.

In Dubai, police chief Lt General Dahi Khalfan Tamim told the government-owned National newspaper that it was "99 per cent if not 100 per cent" certain that the Israeli intelligence agency was behind Mabhouh's killing in a luxury hotel room last month.

In comments due to be aired on Dubai TV last night, he also called on Interpol to issue "a Red Notice against the head of Mossad... as a killer in case Mossad is proved to be behind the crime, which is likely now".

Red Notices are a step short of an international arrest warrant but allow Interpol "to assist national police forces in identifying or locating those persons with a view to their arrest and extradition". There was no immediate comment from Israel in response to the Dubai police chief's claims.

Yesterday Interpol published Red Notices for the 11 suspects wanted in connection with the slaying at the Al Bustan Hotel, along with their photographs and "fraudulently used" names on the passports used in order "to limit the ability of the accused murderers from travelling freely using the same false passports", the international anti-crime agency said. Interpol said the notices were not meant to stigmatise those whose identities were stolen, but to help clear them of suspicion by helping police apprehend the true suspects, whose offences are listed as "crimes against life and health".

Meanwhile, Hamas leaders yesterday identified the two Palestinian suspects being held by Dubai authorities in connection with the assassination as members of security forces loyal to the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, implying but not explicitly saying that Fatah collaborated with Israel in carrying out the killing.

They named the two as Ahmed Hasanein and Anwar Shehaybar, saying they were Gazans who left the Strip after Hamas seized power from Fatah there in 2007. One of the two is said to have been in contact with a member of the hit squad, "Peter", in the days before the assassination, and both are believed to have been arrested in the Jordanian capital, Amman, before being extradited to Dubai. Responding to the Hamas allegations, Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib said: "We're confident the PA was not involved."

In London, Mr Miliband, stressed that the Israeli government had been told of the depth of British concern and insisted that an inquiry by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency ordered by Prime Minister Gordon Brown was not merely "going through the motions".

"What the Permanent Secretary made clear is that we hope and expect Israel will co-operate fully with the investigation and to send back to his government the seriousness with which we are addressing this situation. There has obviously been a very serious incident involving British passports and British passport holders who woke up yesterday morning extremely worried. The most important thing is to get to the bottom of the misuse of fraudulent British passports."

The Foreign Secretary is expected to discuss the issue with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman on Monday when the pair will be in Brussels.

Security sources have confirmed that the threatened end to the intelligence sharing between the UK and Israel was yet to materialise.

The officials stressed that normal service would continue, unless it was conclusively proven that Mossad had used forged British passports in the murder.