Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel's Envoy Asked about Fake British Passports Used by Dubai Hit Squad

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel's Envoy Asked about Fake British Passports Used by Dubai Hit Squad

Article excerpt

Britain 'invited' Israel's ambassador to discuss the apparent use of forged British passports by a hit squad that murdered Mahmoud al- Mabhouh, a Hamas official, in Dubai. The assassination scandal recalls tensions from the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher was furious that Israel's Mossad had used forged British passports.

Israel diplomats were called in Thursday by the governments of Britain and Ireland to explain how passport details of citizens from both countries were used by a group of operatives suspected of killing a senior Hamas militant in Dubai.

The current delicate state of Anglo-Israeli relations, characterized in the British media this week as "being in the freezer," was illustrated by the insistence of Britain's Foreign Office that the Israeli ambassador in London was 'invited' rather than 'summoned' for discussions.

But while there has been increasing unease in Israel over the appropriation of identities for the Dubai killing - widely blamed on Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service - the British government itself is facing some potentially tricky questions concerning how much it knew about the use of the identities of at least six Britons living in Israel by members of the hit squad who traveled on forged passports.

William Hague, the British Foreign Minister's Shadow in the Conservative party, told the BBC Thursday that he had requested "fuller" answers about when the Foreign Office became aware that "cloned" British passports were used by suspects in the murder of alleged Hamas weapons broker Mahmoud Mahbouh on Jan. 19.

Dubai went public earlier this week with closed circuit video, photographs, and images of the forged passports of what it said was an 11-member assassination squad that arrived in Dubai, stalked Mr. Mahbouh, murdered him in his room at the Bustan Rotana Hotel, and then fled the country, all in under 24 hours.

Reports in the Gulf have suggested that police in Dubai alerted the UK that British passports were used by the killers last month, despite British claims that they were informed just hours before the news emerged in the public domain about the circumstances of the killing.

London talks

After his hour-long meeting in Dublin with a senior official in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, Israel's ambassador in Ireland, Zion Evrony told reporters: "I told him I don't know anything about the event - beyond that, it is not customary to share the content of diplomatic meetings."

In London, talks between Ambassador Ron Prosor and the head of Britain's diplomatic service, Sir Peter Ricketts lasted less than 20 minutes.

While there is zero expectation that calls by left-wing Labour MPs for the Israeli ambassador to be expelled will be heeded, the controversy comes in the wake of a difficult year or so of relations between Britain and Israel. …

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