x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Murder in Dubai

News that Mahmoud al Mabhouh, a leading member of Hamas's military wing, the Ezzedine al Qassam Brigades, was murdered in Dubai 11 days ago, has quickly prompted speculation that Israel was behind the killing. Hamas's political leader, Khalid Meshaal said: "You may kill us, you may hurt us, but we're going to kill your claimed legitimacy and we will tear the false image you've painted in recent decades."

News that Mahmoud al Mabhouh, a leading member of Hamas's military wing, the Ezzedine al Qassam Brigades, was murdered in Dubai 11 days ago, has quickly prompted speculation that Israel was behind the killing. Speaking in Damascus, Hamas's political leader, Khalid Meshaal said: "You may kill us, you may hurt us, but we're going to kill your claimed legitimacy and we will tear the false image you've painted in recent decades." As The National reported: "Israel has killed dozens of Hamas leaders and military figures, including its leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in a helicopter gunship attack in Gaza in 2004. "In the wake of the 1989 murder of the two Israeli soldiers, Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sadon, the Israeli army arrested al Mabhouh's family members and demolished his home, the family said. " 'They tried to kill him six times,' said al Mabhouh's mother, Fatima. 'They tried to kidnap and poison him in Lebanon and in Syria. As soon as I heard the news of his death, I knew it was the Israelis.' " 'They even arrested us,' she said, 'but we couldn't tell them anything about where he was or what he was doing.' "The family said they attempted to travel to Syria for al Mabhouh's funeral, held yesterday in Damascus, but were turned back at Gaza's Rafah border with Egypt by Egyptian officials. " 'We paid the Egyptian border guards money, and they even took our passports,' Abdel Raouf said. 'And then when they saw our names, they said: "Are you the family of Mahmoud al Mabhouh?" and we said: "Yes, is it a crime? He is a hero for our country."' "The family also said they hoped Hamas would carry out a 'strong retaliation' for al Mabhouh's death." Ynet said: "Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al Zahar said he believes assassins of senior organisation member Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai arrived in the region as part of Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau's entourage. "Landau recently took part in an environmental convention in Abu-Dhabi. In an interview with Al Jazeera al-Zahar said it was possible the assassins had come with him and entered Dubai under assumed identities, using false passports. " 'A week before the assassination Uzi Landau visited the emirates and he may have had people traveling with him under false names and additional citizenships,' he said." Izzat Rashaq, a top member of Hamas exiled leadership in Damascus, was asked why his organisation had waited nine days to issue a formal announcement of al-Mabhouh's death. He told the Associated Press that Hamas delayed the announcement because it was trying to "reach the Israeli agents who implemented this operation". Clayton Swisher at Al Jazeera commented: "there is little doubt that Netanyahu would be brazen enough to order the al Mabhouh hit. It would mean little to him that the Emirates recently hosted on its soil an Israeli Minister, Uzi Landau, even in spite of his hard line stance toward Palestinians (Landau famously likened the PLO to Al Qaeda!). "As Netanyahu demonstrated in 1997, he is not afraid to send intelligence operatives into a friendly Arab guests home, break some china, and have them peace out as if nothing ever happened. "Only in this case, the Dubai police do not have the benefit of a captured operative. They'll have to rely on whatever witness and forensic evidence they can collect." The National said: "As a senior member of Hamas's military faction, the Ezzedine al Qassam Brigades, al Mabhouh would typically be accompanied by security guards, Mr Nasser said, but had failed to do so on this occasion because no reservations had been made for them with the airline. 'Everywhere he goes he takes bodyguards but there was no booking for them on this flight, so he travelled alone,' Mr Nasser explained. 'The guards were due to follow him on the next available flight the following day.' "Al Mabhouh, who lived with his family in Damascus, flew to Dubai on January 19. He was murdered in the Al Bustan Rotana on January 20. "According to Hamas, citing information it said it received from Dubai authorities, he was electrocuted while walking in the hotel corridor, dragged into his room, and then strangled. " 'We are now very carefully studying our security plans for all senior figures, we are reviewing all our measures to make sure that we are as well protected as possible,' Mr Nasser said. " 'We do not have all of the details yet but maybe he [al Mabhouh] made a telephone call about his plans from a mobile that was intercepted.' "Mr Nasser added: 'It is also standard for airlines to fax advance notice of their passengers, so that may have given the assassins a chance.' "Dubai's police chief, Lt Gen Dahu Khalfan Tamim, confirmed that al Mabhouh had entered the country on a passport bearing his real name. "While involvement of Mossad, Israel's overseas security agency, had not been ruled out as part of the ongoing investigation, Lt Gen Tamim said his officers were 'pursuing individual suspects, not an organisation'. " 'We know everything about the suspects' identity due to the strong evidence they left behind, and we will contact several countries which are connected to the suspects to provide us with all the necessary information,' he said. "In a statement issued on Friday, the Dubai authorities said the suspects were mostly European passport holders and members of an 'experienced criminal gang' who had been monitoring al Mabhouh's movements."

pwoodward@thenational.ae