ISRAEL: Australia expels Mossad station chief over passports in Dubai killing
It would be difficult to weave as intricate a web as the international spy thriller that first unraveled in Dubai in January. Yet another sinew has been threaded out of the ongoing, worldwide investigation on the killing of Hamas arms procurer Mahmoud Mabhouh.
In recent days, the Australian foreign minister informed the Israeli Embassy that its Mossad station chief, whose identity remains secret, would be leaving the island continent within a week.
Stephen Smith spoke to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, claiming that the officer in question was "involved in state intelligence." He argued that Australian passports "were deliberately counterfeited and cloned for use" and investigations had proved "beyond doubt" that Israel was involved, reported the Australian publication International Business Times.
Israeli authorities had a warrant out for Mabhouh's arrest, as did the Egyptians and Jordanians. In 1989, Israeli authorities had failed to arrest Mabhouh for his recently confessed participation in the murder of two Israeli soldiers.
Smith concluded that Australia "remains a firm friend of Israel."
However, he lamented, "this is not what we expect from a nation with whom we have had such a close, friendly, and supportive relationship."
The chief of Australia's Security and Intelligence Organization, David Irvine, managed to convince the Australian government that Israel had a hand in the passport counterfeit after a clandestine trip to Israel earlier this month to investigate foul play. Upon his return, he claimed that four of the passports used during the assassination had been Australian counterfeits, according to news reports.
Smith first announced Canberra's decision to the U.S. government and then to Israel, and later shared the ruling with the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany and Ireland. The Brits had also expelled two Israeli diplomats in March because of the use of forged passports in the Mabhouh killing.
Intelligence-sharing between Australian and Israeli agencies has come to a halt, reported Haaretz.
Though it was not the first time that Israel had forged passports, Smith claimed, this time violated "confidential undertakings" between the two countries, the Associated Press reported.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yossi Levy responded, "We regret the Australian move, which in our opinion does not conform to the kind of relations we have with Canberra and their importance."
Hamas spokesman Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri told the Palestinian Information Center that Australia should also prosecute Mabhouh's assassins. At least, he explained, other countries have started to recognize the threat that the "Zionist entity" poses to global security.
-- Becky Lee Katz in Beirut
Top: One of possibly 26 forged passports, this copy of an Australian counterfeit was used in the assassination attempt. Credit: Dubai authorities.
Bottom: Chief of Australian intelligence David Irvine led the Australian investigation into the passport forgery case in Israel. Credit: Andrew Taylor / The Sydney Morning Herald.