The latest story to hit our news stands has all the makings of a good espionage novel: A well planned assassination in a foreign country of a high-ranked terrorist, suspects carrying fraudulent passports and wearing wigs and beards as disguises, a usually meticulous intelligence agency and a lot of finger pointing.
The story centres around Mahmoud Mabhouh, a senior Hamas operative, who was found dead in his Dubai hotel room on 19 January 2010.
Mabhouh was accused in the late 80s of murdering two Israeli soldiers and afterwards fled the Gaza Strip. Since then, he has been involved in smuggling weapons from Iran into Gaza. He is believed to have been living in Syria and said to have travelled to Dubai to engage in weapons talks with Iranian associates.
His death was first reported in an innocent enough fashion; reports initially emerged that he had died of cancer. Ten days later, speculation about the death surfaced. Perhaps he was injected with a serum that brought on a heart attack, perhaps the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’ rival, was behind the murder, perhaps even Egypt or Jordan? But most stories came back to the same suspect – Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad.
The story hit our local papers on 6 February 2010. John Lyon of The Australian wrote about it in ‘Crowded cast in Hamas’s whodunit’ where he presented all of the possibilities that were emerging but Jason Koutsoukis’ offering in The Age, entitled ‘Mysterious death in Dubai turns spotlight on Mossad’, was far less subtle. It had to be the Mossad.
The plot thickened on Monday, when stories began emerging with video footage of eleven suspects holding European passports. Please read ‘Europeans wanted for Hamas chief’s assassination’ from yesterday’s Australian and ‘Hit squad named in Hamas chief murder’ from the Age.
The Dubai police have released the photographs and names of eleven suspects, stating that all eleven had exited the country, sparking an international manhunt.
The story has now reached its crescendo with the most recent news that at least five of the suspects share names with Israelis that hold British passports. But the incredible twist is that five Israelis woke to the news that they are suspects in this international murder-mystery, and yet their photos do not match those linked to their names, nor were they out of the country at this particular time.
One of the men, Melvyn Adam Mildiner, stated, “I woke up this morning to a world of fun… I am obviously angry, upset and scared – any number of things. And I’m looking into what I can do to try to sort things out and clear my name… I don’t know how this happened or who chose my name or why, but hopefully we’ll find out soon.” He declared, “It’s not me. Which is one silver lining in this entire story.” (see more here and here)
Due to the connection with British-Israeli citizens and the style in which the whole operation has been carried out, most accusations are now pointing at the Mossad. Please read ‘Mossad suspected of forging passports’ from the Australian and ‘Britain fuming over Israeli hit squad ID theft’ from the Age.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated, “We are looking into this at this very moment, 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.” While the British Foreign Office has said that it has “not made any official representation to the Israeli ambassador about the case”, it is believed that the Israeli ambassador has been summoned, or invited as they are now putting it, to explain the situation (see more here and here).
Israel is yet to make an official statement, but Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Army radio: “I don’t know why we are assuming that Israel, or the Mossad used those passports… Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies… There is no reason for Israel to change this policy” (see more). Security officials, not connected to the case and apparently speaking on the condition of anonymity have said that the motive and the use of Israeli identities points to Mossad.
For an operation that seemed to be put together with so much precision, its undoing now seems particularly amateurish. So many questions seem to remain unanswered, such as why, if it was responsible, would Israel place innocent citizens in danger by using their identities and how could such a thorough agency make such an enormous error? An editorial from Haaretz poses‘Troubling questions from Dubai’ however Sultan Knish has a completely different perspective that also makes sense as does Yaacov Lozowick.
Another interesting story that made its way into the Age yesterday is an article entitled ‘Palestinians take a cue from Avatar’. Every Friday for quite a few years, demonstrators have gone to the Palestinian village of Bilin to protest against Israel’s security fence. Last Friday, the protestors painted themselves blue and posed as characters from James Cameron’s blockbuster film “Avatar”, in an attempt to link their land struggle with that of the Na’vi in the film. It was a clever use of popular culture, in my opinion!
However, I don’t exactly picture those lovable blue characters as being connected in any way with decades of suicide bombing, the firing of missiles at civilian targets and assorted acts of terrorism but then again the bending of the truth is often stranger than fiction.