The Day In Israel: Thursday Feb 25th, 2010

In the wake of news that 3 of the suspects in the Dubai killing of Hamashole Mahmoud al-Mabhouh were traveling on Australian passports,  Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith called in Israel’s ambassador Yuval Rotem.

Australia has warned Israel it would regard any involvement in the forging or abuse of Australian passports for the killing of a Hamas militant as “not the act of a friend”.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told parliament this morning that three Australians suspected in the assassination of  Hamas militant Mahmud al-Mabuh in Dubai last month appear to have been the victims of passport fraud.

The assassination has been linked in the media by Dubai police to the Israeli security agency Mossad.

Mr Smith said ASIO and the Australian Federal Police were investigating the probable identity fraud involving  Australians Nicole Sandra Mccabe, Adam Marcus Korman and Joshua Daniel Bruce.

Mr Korman, who like the other two Australians lives in Israel, has denied any involvement, while Ms McCabe’s mother says her daughter is heavily pregnant.

“Preliminary analysis by the Australian Federal Police together with the Australian Passport Office shows that the three Australian passports appear to have been duplicated or altered,” Mr Smith said.

“At this stage Australian officials have no information, no information to suggest the three Australian passport holders were involved in any way other than as victims as passport or identity fraud”.

In his strongest comments on the matter, Mr Smith said Australia made “no conclusions” about the investigation into the killings but said it would appear a serious abuse of Australian passports had occurred.

Mr Smith called in Israeli ambassador Yuval Rotem this morning, urging Israel to “fully co-operate” with the Australian investigation.

“If the results of that investigation cause us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials, then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend,” Mr Smith said.

“Australia, of course, is a longstanding friend of Israel”.

Mr Smith said the passports were all issued in 2003, and since then there had been major improvements in passport security.

“The Australian government condemns in the strongest possible terms the misuse and the abuse of Australian passports,” he said.

The three Australians involved have been offered consular assistance.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

8:05PM: Wow, that Mossad is REAL GOOD!

6:54PM: FU, EU.

5:46PM: Curious caption of the day:

Palestinian children run to take cover during clashes between Palestinian and Israeli soldiers, not seen, in the West Bank city of Hebron, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010. Palestinians in Hebron continued to protest Thursday over the Israeli decision to recognize a disputed West Bank shrine as one of its national heritage sites. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned earlier this week that the region could plunge into a “religious war” over the decision. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Doesn’t look like running to me.

Also, the girl on the left looks suitably distressed (I guess she didn’t hear the photographer’s request to turn on the tears).

1:00PM: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to froth at the mouth against Israel, further displaying the peaceful motivation behind his country’s nuclear program.

Arab nations will usher in a new Middle East “without Zionists and without colonialists,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday.

But with midgets, I assume.

Naqba Dwarf adds: What’s wrong with that?

Ahmadinejad was speaking during a trip to Syria, which follows a string of US efforts to break up Syria’s 30-year alliance with Teheran.

He said that “if the Zionist regime wants to repeat its past mistakes, this will constitute its demise and annihilation.”

12:22PM: It is not often that I will reproduce a Ha’aretz editorial and laud it as making sense, so enjoy this rare moment.

The story just gets more and more complicated, which on its face at least leads us into territory that is more than amazing – wild even – which is hard to judge by rational and professional means.

Twenty-six agents, perhaps even 30, sent to assassinate one person? Granted if they could flee the scene by sea, how could one think that Mossad agents would take cover in Iran? I ask myself. Even if they have unprecedented self confidence the likes of which are unknown?

Without disparaging the skill of Dubai’s chief of police, he took pride that his investigators are much more professional than the Mossad people (whom he accuses of carrying out the operation). One must take into account that he might have gotten carried away in the success of what he had uncovered.

There is no doubt that more than a little of the information that he is disclosing or leaking to the media is part of an ploy in which bits of disinformation are planted. He’s throwing out a lure in the hope that someone in Israel will swallow the bait and respond by incriminating himself or disclosing confidential information.

It began with a leak that on Mabhouh’s body there were signs of brute force that were evident that he was tortured before he was killed. There was even a report that his assassins tied him up with wire. In fact it turned out that for 10 days the Dubai police thought he had died of natural causes, so clearly had he not been tortured.

Now the world is being fed new, allegedly even more dramatic, information about 15 additional suspects, which was released by the Dubai Information Ministry and not the police.

The police chief, who attracted international coverage, apparently isn’t itching to advance the investigation. Last week he was out of the office for personal reasons and now it has been announced that he is on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

It is hard to believe that, if the Mossad intelligence agency carried out the operation, the planners were so irresponsible as to dispatch nearly 30 agents and to expose an entire select operational unit on one assassination operation. This is true even if we assume the planner thought the target should be hit no matter what, and even if hypothetically Mabhouh was on his way to Iran to arrange an arms deal that Israel had seen as changing the balance of power.

Either the new revelations are another salvo in Dubai’s psychological warfare or the police investigators are groping in the dark. It is doubtful we will ever know the truth. The evidence linking Israel to the affair is still weak, certainly for courtroom purposes but also in the diplomatic sphere. But the saga also sends a message of deterrence to Hamas that the long arm of whoever carried out the operation can hit another senior Hamas official.

6:08AM: Heh. (click to enlarge)

(hat tip: Martin)


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media