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MIDDLE EAST: Accusations fly in alleged Israeli Mossad hit on Hamas figure in Dubai [Updated]

February 21, 2010 |  7:07 am

Dubai-tamim-ap

Some fresh developments in the unfolding story of the investigation into an alleged Mossad assassination of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai last month.

A Hamas official is now saying the operative himself breached security by calling his relatives and letting them know he was heading to the United Arab Emirates city-state. 

And, according to a report citing unnamed sources in London's Sunday Times, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally green-lighted the assassination of Mabhouh early in January. 

Meanwhile, Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim (pictured), who has emerged as an acerbic Columbo in an Arabic dishdasha, scolded Hamas for failing to take proper security precautions for so high profile a figure. 

"Mabhouh did not take basic security precautions, and if he had at least one person with him, [the suspects] would not have been able to kill him," Tamim told the Gulf News, a Dubai-based English-language daily paper. 

"It was clear that he had that feeling that he was anonymous and he was not careful enough, especially that the suspects took the same elevator as him and walked behind him to his room, monitoring his movements easily," he told the paper.

[Updated, 7:49 a.m. PST: The UAE foreign ministry issued a new statement Sunday saying it was "deeply concerned" passports from countries whose "nationals currently enjoy preferential visa waivers" were used in the assassination. The foreign ministry statement was the most high-level comment by Dubai or UAE authorities, and it suggested they are trying to put heavy pressure on European authorities to help them hunt down the alleged perpetrators of the killing.]

The story of Mabhouh's assassination, in which 11 suspected Mossad agents using fake European passports allegedly entered Dubai and smothered the Hamas weapons procurer with a pillow, continues to make headlines and raise questions about the future of clandestine operations.

The Sunday Times, citing sources close to Mossad, said the agency approached Netanyahu in early January once it had accumulated good intelligence and done a dry run. 

"Mossad had received intelligence that Mabhouh was planning a trip to Dubai, and they were preparing an operation to assassinate him there, off guard in a luxury hotel," the report said. "The team had already rehearsed, using a hotel in Tel Aviv as a training ground without alerting its owners. The mission was not regarded as unduly complicated or risky, and Netanyahu gave his authorization, in effect signing Mabhouh’s death warrant."

In the Gaza Strip, a Hamas lawmaker said Mabhouh failed to keep his travel plans secret. 

"Mabhouh called his family by phone before he traveled to Dubai and told them of his plan to stay in a specific hotel, and he booked his travel through the Internet," Hamas official Salah Bardawil told reporters, according to the Press Association

Tamim also divulged a couple of tantalizing details, guaranteed to keep the story alive and maintain pressure on Western and Middle Eastern governments to get to the bottom of the assassination. He told Gulf News that one of the two Palestinians in custody had met Mabhou "in a suspicious place, time and manner, while the second is closely related to him."

In addition to the three suspects already announced and publicized, he also said that there would be two additional suspects who allegedly used fake Irish passports. 

Six of the 11 suspects carried phony British passports, and two others were said to have used French or German travel documents.

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

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