x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Australia expels Israeli diplomat for compliance in Hamas murder

The Australian government expels the diplomat after an investigation concludes Israel was responsible for "counterfeited" passports used in the murder.

DUBAI // The Australian government today ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat after an investigation concluded that Israel was responsible for the "abuse" of passports used in the murder of senior Hamas official Mahmoud al Mabhouh. Earlier this year, four Australians were named as victims of identity fraud after their passports were used by suspects in the assassination which took place in January. Following a government inquiry into the incident, Stephen Smith, the foreign minister, today told the Australian parliament that the passports had been "deliberately counterfeited and cloned for use". "The high quality of these counterfeited passports points to the involvement of a state intelligence service," he said. "These investigations and advice have left the government in no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports." Mr Smith described the incident as "not the actions of a friend", adding that this was not the first time that Australian passports had been "misused" by Israel. "After careful deliberation, the government has asked that a member of the Israeli Embassy in Canberra be withdrawn from Australia," he said. The unnamed diplomat has been given a week to leave the country. The government's investigation into the fraudulent use of Australian passports was carried out by police and intelligence agencies and included trips to Israel. In March, the UK government expelled a senior Israeli diplomat over the use of forged British passports in the assassination of al Mabhouh, following an investigation by Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency. Al Mabhouh was killed in a Dubai hotel room on January 20, by members of what is now believed to be an over 30-person hit squad, many of whom used fraudulent British, Australian, French, Irish and German passports to gain access to the UAE. Israel has neither confirmed or denied responsibility for the assassination. For background information on this story Click here zconstantine@thenational.ae