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Britain Questions Israeli Ambassador About Dubai Hamas Assassination

Sonja Pace | London 18 February 2010

Britain is investigating the use of fake British passports by the alleged killers of a Hamas commander last month in Dubai and the Foreign Office has queried Israel's ambassador about it.

After his brief meeting at the Foreign Office, Israel's Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor said little. "As you know it is not the usual way to talk about what happens inside those meetings," he said.

Prosor was formally "invited" to meet the head of Britain's diplomatic service to answer questions about the use of fake British passports by the alleged Dubai assassins. The ambassador said he was unable to provide any additional information.

Dubai's police chief says he is 99 percent certain Israel's Mossad intelligence service mounted the operation that killed Palestinian militant Mahmoud al Mabhouh.

Israel has refused to comment, but has also not issued a denial.

Dubai police have released the names and photos of the alleged assassins and security camera images of the group inside the luxury hotel where the killing took place.

Six of the passports linked to the operation belonged to British nationals, who also hold Israeli citizenship. All six deny involvement in the assassination and say their identity was stolen.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said a full investigation is being conducted into the incident. "We hope and expect that they [Israel] will cooperate fully with the investigation that has been launched by the prime minister," he said.

Identity theft is of great concern to the government, says Middle East analyst, Robert Lowe of London's Chatham House research center. But, he predicts the fallout from this case will blow over. "Mutual interests between Israel and Britain are strong, not lease in the areas of Iran and of al-Qaida style terrorism and the two countries see value in continuing cooperation," said Lowe.

Publicly the British government is focusing on the issue of the fake passports and identity theft. But Lowe says British officials may privately raise concerns about the value of such assassinations. "Because it is debatable whether these [operations] actually help Israel's security or whether, in fact, they are ultimately harmful to Israel's strategic interests," he said.

Israel has assassinated top leaders of Palestinian militant groups in the past. It also has a policy of not commenting on such operations.

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