The Day In Israel: Thursday Feb 18th, 2010
In the wake of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s killing and passportgate, Israel’s ambassadors to the United Kingdom and Ireland have been summoned to explain the “identity theft.”
The assassination of senior Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh is turning into international diplomatic affair. Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland have bee summoned by the countries’ foreign ministries to explain the use of fake passports in Dubai. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said it was unaware of such demands.
The British Foreign Office was expected to summon Israeli Ambassador to London Ron Prosor on Thursday to “share information” about the assassins’ use of identities stolen from six British citizens living in Israel, the Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday evening.
Prosor was summoned to a meeting with Under-Secretary a Peter Ricketts. A spokesman for the British Embassy in Tel Aviv clarified that the ambassador would not be reprimanded. As of Thursday, the spokesman said, the embassy will start contacting the Israeli citizens whose identities were stolen and offer them assistance.
“The defrauding of British passports is a very serious issue,” the British Foreign Office said in a statement. “The Government will continue to take all the action that is necessary to protect British Nationals from identity-fraud. The Government is involved in a number of strands of ongoing activity in relation to this specific case.
“First, we are providing support to the British Nationals who have been affected by this fraudulent activity. The British Embassy in Tel Aviv is contacting the affected British Nationals, and stands ready to provide them with the support that they need; second, as the prime minister has said, we need to ensure a full investigation is carried out into the fraudulent use of these passports. The Serious Organised Crime Agency will lead this investigation, in close co-operation with the Emirati authorities; and third, given the links to Israel of a number the British Nationals affected, there will be a meeting between the FCO permanent under secretary and the Israeli ambassador tomorrow.”
A diplomatic source in Dublin told Ynet that the Israeli ambassador in the Irish capital would also be summoned for an inquiry. Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin announced that further information had been received from the authorities in the United Arab Emirates concerning reports of the use of fake Irish passports in Dubai. He said the new information confirms that the passports used were fraudulent.
“Genuine Irish passport numbers were used. These numbers correspond to actual numbers on three legitimate Irish passports. However, the identities of the persons recorded on the forged passports do not correspond to those recorded on the valid passports carrying the same numbers.”
The Irish Foreign Ministry is attempting to locate the Irish citizens to whom these passports belong to or belonged to in the past. Minister Martin asked the media to respect their privacy.
The minister said he regarded any activity which would jeopardize the integrity of the Irish passport as extremely serious.
“Our passport is widely regarded and respected throughout the world as being of the highest quality. We have invested very heavily in extra security features so that our citizens can travel in safety. Actions, which endanger our well earned reputation in this area, have the potential to affect the security of all our citizens travelling overseas. I am determined to maintain the good name of Irish passports. The Department is liaising closely with the UAE authorities on the matter.”
The Irish Foreign Ministry said it would be in contact, through its embassies in London, Paris and Berlin, with the authorities in these countries with a view to working with them in this investigation.
Israel appears to be in trouble in Austria as well. The Interior Ministry in Vienna said it had launched an investigation into the suspected use of at least seven mobile phones with pre-paid Austrian chips by Mabhouh’s killers.
The Dubai police investigation revealed that the cell members did not contact each other directly during their stay in the country, and didn’t do so before their arrival and after leaving as well. However, they spoke to each other by dialing to a communications center in Austria, which was referred to as “the assassins’ headquarters” by the Dubai police.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged a “full investigation” Wednesday into how fake British passports were linked to Hamas chief’s killers, amid calls here for Israel to explain its role.
“We are looking at this at this very moment,” he told London’s LBC radio. “We have got to carry out a full investigation into this. The British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care,” he told London’s LBC Radio.
“The evidence has got to be assembled about what has actually happened and how it happened and why it happened and it is necessary for us to accumulate that evidence before we can make statements.”
Meanwhile, head Hamashole Khaled Mashaal has reacted in the usual understated, Hamas way.
Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal threatened Wednesday to avenge the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. “The talks about revenge are over and execution time is here,” he said.
“Our mission is to punish you and your mission is to continue living under the fear of our response. We will be the one to determine the appropriate way and time and location. We won’t say when and where, but prepare to absorb the fire of our rage in our special way and in our special execution in the chosen time and place.”
“And if you carried out your crime through the Mossad, we have the way which will hurt you. We are no here to eulogize the shahid (martyr). We are here to say that revenge is coming, coming, coming. Today you hear it in words and tomorrow you’ll see it in fire and actions.”
Updates (Israel time; most recent at top
7:18PM: Interpol is going after the suspected killers of Hamashole Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.
I don’t seem to recall the terror chief himself being on Interpol’s wanted list…
4:40PM: Photo of the day:
Shahar Peer of Israel shakes hands with an official after her match against Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark at the WTA Dubai Tennis Championships February 17, 2010. REUTERS/Mosab Omar
4:08PM: Another killing in Dubai, but this time it was clearly done by an Israeli.
1:50PM: Additional news on the hit:
Airport officials carried out routine retinal scans on 11 suspects sought by Dubai when they entered the country in the days before the hit. An unnamed Dubai official said on Thursday that the investigation has now widened, with police seeking a further seven members of the assassination team – making 18 in all.
Meanwhile, Dubai police have released the following surveillance photo of the additional seven members of the hit team.
1:44PM: Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim:
“Our investigations reveal that Mossad is involved in the murder of (Mahmoud) al-Mabhouh. It is 99 percent, if not 100 percent, that Mossad is standing behind the murder.”
8:48AM: The plot thickens.
Nahro Massoud, a Hamas official who was released from an Egyptian prison in 2007 at the outrage of the Palestinian Authority, was arrested in Syria in connection with the assassination of fellow Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the British Guardian reported overnight Wednesday.
According to the report, Palestinian sources confirmed that Massoud was being detained and questioned in Syria.
Allegations of his arrest and detention have been denied by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, the paper added. He was quoted in the report as saying, “It is not correct at all.”
The PA in past years accused Massoud of being behind the assassination of Col. Muhammad al-Musat, commander of the PA’s Military Intelligence Force in the northern Gaza Strip.
6:08AM: PMW brings us part of an interview on Palestinian Authority TV in which an Arab refugee in Lebanon describes how he and other Arabs left for Lebanon from Israel during the 1948 war, upon the urging of Arab leaders.
As PMW explains:
This refugee’s testimony is yet another example of how Palestinian leaders, writers and refugees themselves have begun to speak out in recent years and openly blame the Arab leadership for the creation of the Arab refugee problem. Mufid describes a large departure to Lebanon from Israel, which led to the creation of “11 or 15 refugee camps.” He does not place the blame on Israel. As Palestinian Media Watch has previously reported, other recent Palestinian accounts likewise describe a deliberate exit from Israel under orders by Arab leaders, which contradicts the Palestinian leadership’s charge that the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who left in 1948 were expelled by Israel.