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Damascus - Report: Hamas Official Under Arrest In Syria For Helping Mossad In Dubai Assassination

Published on: February 17, 2010 05:45 PM
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CCTV footage on events in DubaiCCTV footage on events in Dubai

Damascus - A key security operative of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas was under arrest in Syria tonight on suspicion of having helped an alleged Israeli hit squad identify Mahmoud al-Mabhouh before he was assassinated in Dubai, the Guardian has learned.

Palestinian sources in the Gulf confirmed Nahro Massoud, a Hamas security official, was in detention and under interrogation in Damascus in connection with the 19 January killing, which is now widely assumed to have been mounted by Israel’s Mossad secret intelligence service.

Khaled Mishal, Hamas’s political leader, denied the allegation. “It is not correct at all,” he said, as Hamas sources suggested a disinformation campaign by the group’s Fatah rival. But informed Palestinian sources insisted Massoud was being questioned amid mounting speculation that potentially senior Palestinian defectors may have assisted in the plot.

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The authorities in Dubai have refused to name two other Palestinians who were extradited from Jordan to the United Arab Emirates after the murder. Al-Jazeera reported that one of them worked for Fatah’s security services but the Palestinian Authority has denied that.

Today fresh details of the assassination operation and the motives for the killing continued to emerge.

The plot

After returning from a walk around the city al-Mabhouh was ambushed in his room on the second floor of Dubai’s al-Bustan Rotana hotel by four men wearing baseball caps and T-shirts identified by Dubai police as the “execution team”. They were said to have broken into his room, suffocated him and departed in around 10 minutes. They then left the country.

The squad had constantly changed their appearances, using wigs, hats and glasses as disguises. But today questions emerged over the CCTV evidence released by Dubai police.

All the assassins began leaving the hotel around 20 minutes after the ­murder, according to Dubai authorities, who showed footage of Gail Folliard, claimed to be the only woman in the group, exiting the hotel. Police also released footage of what now appears to be a second woman leaving the building around the same time. She was wearing white trousers and a stripy hat, departing with a different man.

An Emirati official told the New York Times the hit team was not restricted to the 11 individuals whose photographs were initially released by Dubai police, but in fact included a total of 17 people, six of whom had not yet been identified. Those additional suspects could include the two Palestinians in UAE custody, the second woman shown in the footage and, potentially, Massoud.

The Palestinian connection

Massoud’s name first surfaced in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyasah which quoted “a well-informed source” in Dubai as saying he had been with Mabhouh until he was killed, raising questions about his involvement.

“Hamas suspects that he [Massoud] passed on the information that led to ­Mabhouh’s killing,” a senior ­Palestinian source told Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper. Massoud, a commander of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades, fled from Gaza to Egypt where he was detained but released in late 2007, to the fury of the western-backed Palestinian Authority, run by Hamas’s rival, Fatah.

Killings of Palestinians by Israel have often involved Palestinian agents being used to identity the target.

Israeli media have reported previously that Mabhouh’s killing prompted Hamas to launch an internal investigation to determine whether Israel had infiltrated its ranks. “The assassination of someone as senior as Mabhouh has rung an alarm bell in Hamas,” one official told the Jerusalem Post. “Only a few people in the Hamas leadership knew about Mabhouh’s secret activities and movements.”

But Yossi Melman, the Haaretz newspaper’s expert on intelligence, commented that such stories were “another example of the sort of psychological warfare against Hamas that would have the organisation become even more suspicious of flawed security in its ranks”.

Hamas has said little about Mabhouh except to acknowledge he was a valued member of the organisation. It immediately vowed to retaliate for his death.

A colleague told a Gulf newspaper: “Mabhouh played a key role in supplying the Palestinian people with weapons and money. His central role in the 2008-2009 Gaza war was clear, he supplied Palestinian fighters with special weapons, he was an important figure for our military.”

Hamas has accused Israel of trying and failing to kill Mabhouh three months ago. Speculation about the motives for his assassination has focused on his role in the 1989 abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers.

The Iranian connection

Middle East experts and diplomats see the Dubai plot as part of a wider clandestine struggle between Israel and Hamas – and a deliberate attempt to weaken the Palestinian organisation’s links with Iran. Israel considered Mabhouh to be the point man in smuggling longer-range Iranian rockets into Gaza that would be capable of striking Israel’s urban heartland.

Neither Hamas nor Dubai police have given any indication of why Mabhouh was in the emirate, a convenient access point for the Islamic Republic. Hamas has occasionally confirmed that its men have been sent to Iran for training by the Revolutionary Guards, confirming allegations made by Israel.

Iran says it supports Hamas as a resistance movement. But it is shy of revealing any information about its financial and logistical backing for the Palestinians. A rare public glimpse of this largely secret war came last January when Israeli planes and drones attacked a convoy of arms and explosives heading for Gaza across the Sudanese desert during the three-week Cast Lead offensive.

The Austrian connection

There were more signs tonight the plot was connected with a less obvious country, after claims Austria was used as a communications hub by the squad.

Dubai police identified Austria as ­“command centre” for the assassins, after mobile phone data showed at least seven numbers originating there. The gang never telephoned each other directly other than with what Dubai police speculated were “encrypted” messages, but contact was maintained via several Austrian mobile phone Sim cards. Austria has confirmed its officials were assessing the claims.

Vienna has a long reputation as a centre of espionage, having been used extensively during the cold war and elements of the sophisticated infrastructure have remained in place. In December 2008 radical Islamic terrorists also coordinated their bomb attacks in Mumbai, in which 160 people were killed, using Austrian mobile phone numbers.


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Read Comments (10)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Feb 17, 2010 at 06:46 PM Anonymous Says:

Kol hakavod to whomever pulled this off. When the truth comes out (if ever) it will be shown to be a multi-country hit. This rasha had many people who wanted him to be eliminated.

2

 Feb 17, 2010 at 07:01 PM Anonymous Says:

How about that !!! I bet they are so angry because hundreds of millions of dollars and euros are now lost in secret bank accounts controled by this murderer. Ha. Ha. Ha. All gone to Swiss Bankers -- or to the guys who fingered him to get the cash. Now all these killers can stew in suspicion. Good job.

3

 Feb 17, 2010 at 07:23 PM Gee Wiz, Helping Mossad Says:

Adjectives:

"A key security operative.."

".. now widely assumed.."

"a well-informed source"

"..secret intelligence service."

Secret? Secret intel services, secret negotiations, always in the headlines!

The Iranian connection

The Austrian connection

We now truely believe that Hamas helped Mossad knock off Hamas. Don't forget Israel was behind the coup in Honduras and the scientist who was 'bombed' in Iran. There's the JFK assassination, according to Libya.

When Lebanon was openly targetting the civilian population of Israel, 2nd Lebanon War, Israel was accused of warcrimes by members of the International Community.

Every day and week these phoney stories are headlined. Somebody doesn't have a sense of proportion. If no one will tell them then their recourse when floundering will be more agitation (euphemism).

The same goes for the sad story of murder and subsequent execution in Florida. Why assume the harassing callers were Jewish, or only Jewish? The headlines harass Jews everyday and this queues others. Why wouldn't harassing callers pretend to be Jews?

People have to keep perspective, officialdom/media won't do it for us.

4

 Feb 17, 2010 at 08:52 PM pupa yid Says:

Was he really such an important figure in hamas that it paid to put in such an effort to make him vanish?

5

 Feb 17, 2010 at 09:40 PM Anonymous Says:

Mossad should feel embarrassed that their 11 operatives were caught on camera and their falsified passport use could not hide their plot. The most sloppy part is the use of Israeli citizen identities. The days of legendary SECRET missions like Operation Wrath of God are long gone. Even the1947 declassified CIA manual on assassination taught their agents during WWII to never use more than 2 operatives for an assassination mission. It took 11 sloppy agents to take down an insignificant, unprotected agent. It took Dubai police 2 days to piece together hundreds of hours of footage from a dozen locations to uncover the entire plot. The Dubai Police have demonstrated their enormous capabilities in cracking a complex investigation and that is very impressive for an Arab country.

6

 Feb 17, 2010 at 11:16 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Anonymous Says:

Mossad should feel embarrassed that their 11 operatives were caught on camera and their falsified passport use could not hide their plot. The most sloppy part is the use of Israeli citizen identities. The days of legendary SECRET missions like Operation Wrath of God are long gone. Even the1947 declassified CIA manual on assassination taught their agents during WWII to never use more than 2 operatives for an assassination mission. It took 11 sloppy agents to take down an insignificant, unprotected agent. It took Dubai police 2 days to piece together hundreds of hours of footage from a dozen locations to uncover the entire plot. The Dubai Police have demonstrated their enormous capabilities in cracking a complex investigation and that is very impressive for an Arab country.

They got their man. With today's technology it is hard to hide from the camera. You got to take risks and do the job. WELL DONE.

7

 Feb 18, 2010 at 12:01 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Anonymous Says:

Mossad should feel embarrassed that their 11 operatives were caught on camera and their falsified passport use could not hide their plot. The most sloppy part is the use of Israeli citizen identities. The days of legendary SECRET missions like Operation Wrath of God are long gone. Even the1947 declassified CIA manual on assassination taught their agents during WWII to never use more than 2 operatives for an assassination mission. It took 11 sloppy agents to take down an insignificant, unprotected agent. It took Dubai police 2 days to piece together hundreds of hours of footage from a dozen locations to uncover the entire plot. The Dubai Police have demonstrated their enormous capabilities in cracking a complex investigation and that is very impressive for an Arab country.

Come on!
They got their man and the world is already a safer place.

Who cares how many people it took? The main thing is that he'll never harm anyone again.

Aside from the word of the police chief I haven't seen any proof as to who it was or what nationality their passports were. Does it make sense to you that in 48 hours they can go through hundreds of hours of surveilance videos, (at times being very grainy) from many different locations a fit the whole thing together?

How can they tell from watching them speak on cell phones that they were calling Ausria using an encryption?

The people in the airport looked considerably different from the people in the hotel and also showed no resemblance to the faces on the supposed passport pictures. Granted they may have been the same people using different dsiguises in each location, I have my doubs that the police could do so much forensic investigating in 48 hours.

I may be wrong but I am not convinced that the investigation is headed in the correct direction.

But let's face it, the guy is gone and the only ones arrested so far are some Palestinians. How could you, or anyone else for that matter, have done a better job?

8

 Feb 18, 2010 at 12:21 AM Yaakov Says:

#5. Give them a break this is real life and not a movie. They clearly did a good job since all they have is a movie of a guy named "Kevin" wearing a baseball cap.

9

 Feb 18, 2010 at 12:28 AM Sullivan Says:

Reply to #5  
Anonymous Says:

Mossad should feel embarrassed that their 11 operatives were caught on camera and their falsified passport use could not hide their plot. The most sloppy part is the use of Israeli citizen identities. The days of legendary SECRET missions like Operation Wrath of God are long gone. Even the1947 declassified CIA manual on assassination taught their agents during WWII to never use more than 2 operatives for an assassination mission. It took 11 sloppy agents to take down an insignificant, unprotected agent. It took Dubai police 2 days to piece together hundreds of hours of footage from a dozen locations to uncover the entire plot. The Dubai Police have demonstrated their enormous capabilities in cracking a complex investigation and that is very impressive for an Arab country.

The fact is, he's gone.
Everything else is up for dispute.
Let's say 11 of their operatives were caught on camera. Big deal- so 11 disguised agents are caught on camera. No one knows the way they really look, their real names, their nationality, their location or anything else useful about them.
Looking back almost fifty years to when Eichmann was caught in Argentina; do you think they only used two agents? Even Isser Harel, the head of the Mossad at the time, was there.
Remember what happened in Jordan when the Mossad only used two agents? Apparently they (or whoever pulled this off) felt that the job can be done much smoother with a whole team rather than just a pair.

10

 Feb 18, 2010 at 12:32 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

Come on!
They got their man and the world is already a safer place.

Who cares how many people it took? The main thing is that he'll never harm anyone again.

Aside from the word of the police chief I haven't seen any proof as to who it was or what nationality their passports were. Does it make sense to you that in 48 hours they can go through hundreds of hours of surveilance videos, (at times being very grainy) from many different locations a fit the whole thing together?

How can they tell from watching them speak on cell phones that they were calling Ausria using an encryption?

The people in the airport looked considerably different from the people in the hotel and also showed no resemblance to the faces on the supposed passport pictures. Granted they may have been the same people using different dsiguises in each location, I have my doubs that the police could do so much forensic investigating in 48 hours.

I may be wrong but I am not convinced that the investigation is headed in the correct direction.

But let's face it, the guy is gone and the only ones arrested so far are some Palestinians. How could you, or anyone else for that matter, have done a better job?

Dubai is a wealthy little country. Their security apparatus makes others in the world very jealous with all the latest gadgets that they can afford to buy. In this case, the Dubai police relied on facial recognizing, biometric technologies that track human faces based on your common points in the structure of your face which is like a finger print. No wig, no make up will make you escape from technology that maps dots on your face in seconds.

11

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