Is Israel the only suspect over Dubai death?

February 18, 2010

* Dubai death may have the support of many actors
* Did the Saudis have a hand? Did British intelligence?
* Few weeping over death of Hamas master terrorist
* There’s much we don’t know about Mabhouh’s death, so it’s unwise to jump to conclusions


[Please note that there is also a Feb. 22 follow-up dispatch to the dispatch below, here:
Journalism 007: Reporting fiction as fact

and also a third Feb. 24 dispatch on this here: Only one group could be behind the latest hit -- the Irish Jews.]


Victims of Mabhouh’s missiles: Below left: Yuval Abebeh, 4, an Ethiopian-Israeli boy murdered in Sderot by a Hamas missile on Sept. 29, 2004. He died shortly after the picture (above) was taken, as did 2-year-old Dorit Aniso, below right.



1. A death in Dubai
2. Has Israel been set up?
3. Data banks
4. Region-wide conflagration
5. Disappearing Iranians
6. “The incrimination of Israel”


By Tom Gross

I previously wrote about the death of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud Mabhouh in the dispatch of Feb. 2, 2010. (See the first note, titled Israel has ‘no comment’ on Dubai death.)

Yesterday, without any actual evidence, the media in some European countries – notably Britain – went much further than even the media in Dubai, and blamed Israel unreservedly for Mabhouh’s death.

Headlines included:
* Britons had passport details stolen by ‘Mossad death squad’ (Times of London)
* Why choose us, ask Britons whose identities were stolen by Mossad hit squad (Daily Mail, page 1). Another story on page 4 of the Daily Mail was headlined: Dragged into a Mossad murder plot and photo captions in the paper described those involved as “Mossad agents” and “Mossad killers”.
* And today the lead editorial in The Guardian is titled: Israeli assassinations: passports to kill.

* And BBC Radio 4’s PM show, choosing as their “expert” to interview the unreliable writer Gordon Thomas, yesterday broadcast the following at 17:35 minutes: 1 million Jews on hand to assist local Mossad executions.

Other papers mixed fact with pure nonsense about the supposed past exploits and misdeeds of Israeli intelligence.

Prominent international TV stations have paid enormous attention to this story, also blaming Israel without any concrete evidence. For example, the first four stories on the 8 a.m World News broadcast on CNN International yesterday also concerned Mabhouh’s death (even though it occurred four weeks earlier). Only after those items did CNN report on the capture of the most senior Taliban commander since 2001, which many would argue is a far more important news story, both strategically in terms of international politics and specifically for the United States.

This morning CNN again led its news with a series of reports on the Dubai matter lasting 7 minutes, and BBC World led reports on the subject lasting almost 8 minutes. (The channels spent only a few seconds much later in their broadcasts mentioning the ongoing vicious fighting in Afghanistan involving U.S. and British troops, and failed to mention fresh Afghan civilian deaths there.)

Meanwhile, the former editor of the British tabloid newspaper The Sun, said “I’d be happy if someone used my passport to kill such a disgusting Hamas terrorist.”

And Douglas Murray, who is emerging as one of Britain’s leading political thinkers, has two posts on The Daily Telegraph website (here and here) in which he keeps a refreshingly open mind on this matter .



I would make the following points further to my February 2 dispatch on this subject. (Journalists wishing to use these points can attribute them to me as quotes.)

* There seems a very real possibility that Israel is being set up. Airlines keep detailed passenger records these days and anyone could have got the flight manifestos of British and other passport holders who have flown to Israel in the past and then used these names in a deliberate attempt to point the finger of blame at Israel.

* The Dubai authorities have provided no forensic evidence that points to Israel, only a series of photos and videos of random hotel guests who may or may not all know each other. In any event, the persons shown in these photos and videos are not shown committing any crime. It would be very easy to frame Israel, using the identities of six randomly-chosen Israelis based on flight manifestos. This could have been done by anyone – and especially by persons who wanted to avoid being suspected of this action by blaming the Israelis and diverting attention from the real perpetrators.


* It is not necessarily a Middle Eastern actor that is behind what The Daily Telegraph called a “ruthlessly efficient assassination” and “a meticulously-planned operation.” In this atmosphere of hypertension, where governments are fighting battles with terror organizations (often clandestinely) in many locations around the world, the intelligence agencies of many countries have created data banks of identities using flight lists and other sources. Persons with longstanding familiarity with intelligence matters tell me that many governments – and not just the European ones – use European operatives to carry out their killings, including in the cases of other previous assassinations in Dubai.

* It would be uncharacteristically stupid of Mossad operatives if they had in fact so easily allowed themselves to be filmed, and Mossad operatives are not stupid.

* Mabhouh entered Dubai on a fake passport and it may have been difficult for the Mossad to follow his footsteps and synchronize any assassination with his travel schedule. But Hamas knew his whereabouts and plans at all times, and so did the Iranians and presumably the Syrians.


* Many governments wanted Mabhouh out of the way, not only Israel. Sources confirm to me that the missiles Mabhouh was procuring from the Iranians had the capability of hitting central Tel Aviv, and were Hamas to use such missiles later this year, the Israeli response might lead to a region-wide conflagration, which many Western and Arab governments want to avoid.

* If Israel was responsible – and that is a very big if – it would be an indication of how strongly Israel feels it is being left with few other options in protecting its citizens from deadly threats. All the governments that have supported the Goldstone report have in effect told Israel that it cannot defend itself when attacked by missiles from Gaza in future, missiles that put over five million people at risk, so it would not be surprising if Israel decided it has no choice but to try and prevent those missiles reaching Gaza at an earlier stage in the supply chain.

* Sources tell me that this was a particularly significant trip by Mabhouh (to Dubai, the regional arms hub, from his home in Damascus), in which he was en route to procure weapons of particular significance. His present activity was viewed as a turning point in the type of weaponry being smuggled, and it was considered very important to intervene at an early stage.


* The governments of Jordan and Egypt (where Mabhouh previously spent a year in prison in 2003) have sought Mabhouh for some time. Some Arab media have reported that the operation against Mabhouh may have been carried out by a rival Palestinian group and the photographed individuals have nothing to do with it.

* Indeed it is not even clear that those nine photographs that the Dubai authorities have released to the media actually portray real people. (Have they been heavily retouched, for example? Is each one a composite of several faces?) The photos have been shown repeatedly in news broadcasts and plastered on the front page of newspapers around the world in the last 48 hours, but not a single person has come forward to say they recognize any of them, even from high school days, despite front page headlines such as Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper saying “If you recognize any of these people, call us”.

* Unlike the anti-Israeli elements of the Western media that have rushed to blame Israel (creating a public furor and thereby forcing the hands of the British, Irish and French governments to summon their respective Israeli ambassadors), the Arab media are suggesting that the truth is far more complicated.

For example, the Arab world’s leading and arguably its most reliable newspaper, Al Sharq Alawsat, runs these stories:
* UAE Tipped Jordan of Palestinian Suspects whilst they were in the Air – Sources
* Palestinian Dubai Murder Suspects are Hamas Members – Palestinian Security Official

* This article in al-Hayat (Arabic only) also examines Palestinian involvement (no doubt with assistance from Arab and Western government intelligence agencies) into Mahmoud Mabhouh’s death.

* What is true is that someone is making increasing moves against operatives connected to the Iranian regime. In recent years, senior Iranian officials linked to the intelligence services or nuclear program have disappeared quietly, the latest one while on pilgrimage to Mecca. Perhaps the Saudis were responsible.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

Above: Still image of a video released by the Dubai police.



In an editorial, the Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom reflects that “The events in Dubai prove to us once again that the world has totally changed for those dealing in terrorism and, unfortunately, for those seeking to foil it... The affair which is developing before our very eyes, is becoming weirder and weirder by the minute. So much so that it is even possible to surmise that this is not only about the Mahmoud al-Mabhouh assassination, but also about the incrimination of Israel.”


Among past dispatches on this list concerning the Mossad, please see:

* Israel Harel, “The man who made the Mossad” (Feb. 19, 2003)
* “Patricia Roxborough,” the Mossad’s Christian superspy, buried in Israel (Feb. 21, 2005)
* BBC set to name woman agent who killed Olympics massacre mastermind (Jan. 24, 2006)
* Mossad’s hidden successes against Iran so far – but they are not enough (May 17, 2009)


UPDATES, FEB. 19-25, 2010

Third item here by Richard Littlejohn, Britain’s most read columnist.
Melanie Phillips on The Spectator website. (And more here.)
Douglas Murray on The Daily Telegraph website.
Stephanie Gutmann on The Daily Telegraph website.
Comments at The National Post (Canada) here, here, and here.
The National Review recommendations here and here.
FPI daily brief
Roger L. Simon
Beltway Bips

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.