Choose your suspect 1

The  Dubai police accused Israel of assassinating the Hamas monster, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in a Dubai hotel. Their “evidence” was some entertaining videos of “the assassins” going about the hotel and elsewhere. But they could be recordings of any ordinary vacationers going off to play tennis, or to shop, or whatever.

Nothing really links Israel to the assassination except some passports allegedly carrying names of people who have visited or are visiting Israel.

If Israeli Intelligence was behind the killing, would they have issued passports easily traceable to those people? Well, maybe in a double-bluff, thinking that just this question would be asked and that the answer would probably be “no”. Possible, but not convincing.

We cannot even be sure that the Hamas monster is dead. Perhaps he was kidnapped. Perhaps he himself  set up the whole thing in collusion with the Dubai police in order to fake his own death, to escape the amazingly large number of enemies who want him dead (see below).

Now the Dubai police seem to be thinking that Hamas killed their own man.

Fatah also accuses Hamas.

Hamas accuses Fatah as well as Israel.

It is rumoured that some of the suspected ‘Israeli agents’ made their escape by sailing off  to – of all unlikely places –  Iran!

Yossi Melman takes note that the Dubai police now say that there were 15 more “Israeli agents” involved and reports in Haaretz:

The story just gets more and more complicated, which on its face at least leads us into territory that is more than amazing – wild even – which is hard to judge by rational and professional means.

Twenty-six agents, perhaps even 30, sent to assassinate one person? Granted if they could flee the scene by sea, how could one think that Mossad agents would take cover in Iran? I ask myself. Even if they have unprecedented self confidence the likes of which are unknown? …

There is no doubt that more than a little of the information that [the Dubai police chief] is disclosing or leaking to the media is part of a ploy in which bits of disinformation are planted. He’s throwing out a lure in the hope that someone in Israel will swallow the bait and respond by incriminating himself or disclosing confidential information. …

Now the world is being fed new, allegedly even more dramatic, information about 15 additional suspects, which was released by the Dubai Information Ministry and not the police.

The police chief, who attracted international coverage, apparently isn’t itching to advance the investigation. Last week he was out of the office for personal reasons and now it has been announced that he is on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

It is hard to believe that, if the Mossad intelligence agency carried out the operation, the planners were so irresponsible as to dispatch nearly 30 agents and to expose an entire select operational unit on one assassination operation. This is true even if we assume the planner thought the target should be hit no matter what, and even if hypothetically Mabhouh was on his way to Iran to arrange an arms deal that Israel had seen as changing the balance of power.

Either the new revelations are another salvo in Dubai’s psychological warfare or the police investigators are groping in the dark. It is doubtful we will ever know the truth. The evidence linking Israel to the affair is still weak, certainly for courtroom purposes but also in the diplomatic sphere. But the saga also sends a message of deterrence to Hamas that the long arm of whoever carried out the operation can hit another senior Hamas official.

Mel Frykberg reports at The JC.com that:

Hamas has closed ranks and is licking its wounds following the Jan. 20 assassination in Dubai of one of its top operatives, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. It is alleged that one of its own was responsible for providing the hit team with vital logistical information.

Dubai’s chief of police, Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, on Sunday called on Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar to launch an “internal investigation” into the operation.

Tamim claims that an associate of al-Mabhouh, a high-ranking military leader, leaked information about the Hamas leader’s visit to Dubai and went as far as to refer to the associate as “the real murderer.” …

“The collective Hamas leadership has gone into damage control. Various sources approached by IPS refused to talk or even answer their phones. …

As more information about the subterfuge surrounding the assassination is made public knowledge, the more conspiracy theories circulate and the thicker the plot becomes.

Two former PA-affiliated Fatah members, and former PA intelligence officers in Gaza before Hamas overthrew the PA unity government in the June 2007 coup, have been named as chief suspects in the Dubai slaying.

Anwar Sheibar and Ahmed Hasnain were allegedly members of a death cell which carried out violent suppression of the PA’s political opponents, especially Hamas members, before they fled Gaza after the 2007 coup.

According to newspaper reports they were recently arrested in Jordan and then extradited to Dubai on request of the Dubai authorities.

The two are alleged to have rented hotel rooms and hired vehicles for the assassination squad

Media reports allege both men are … on the PA payroll in Ramallah…

Tom Gross writes this at the National Post:

We all know that journalists (including some at highly-regarded newspapers) often makes things up, but rarely have we witnessed such a mix of misinformation, disinformation and innuendo passed off as fact, as we have in recent days in the reports dealing with the death of Hamas terrorist Mahmoud Mabhouh. (Some of this admittedly can be attributed to the complete failure of the Israeli government – whether or not Israel had anything to do with the matter – to provide an effective response to the media.)

For example, the story in the (London) Sunday Telegraph that British immigrants to Israel had their passports removed and copied at passport control at Tel Aviv airport, is highly implausible. Passports are not taken from immigrants at Tel Aviv airport…

The Telegraph story, written by a London-based correspondent, has all the signs of being planted by anti-Israel elements at the British Foreign Office (of which there are many) …

But other media lapped up the Telegraph story. For example, Sky News ran it all day on its ticker tape at the foot of the screen, probably doing great damage to future British tourism to Israel by falsely reporting that British passports would be removed and copied at Ben Gurion airport. …

Even worse was the story in the London Sunday Times by reporter Uzi Mahnaimi, claiming the paper had evidence that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had personally ordered the hit on Mabhouh, and even providing quotes attributed to Netanyahu when he supposedly gave such orders. The Sunday Times story was then splashed all day as the lead story on the websites of papers like Ha’aretz, which is so full of contempt for the elected government of Israel that it will publish almost anything to paint Netanyahu in a bad light.

A comparable motive is true in Britain in the case of The Daily Mail, who were determined to attack Gordon Brown’s government and thus on Friday published an anonymous story (without any author’s byline, or quoted persons in it) claiming the British government “knew in advance that Israel was going to use British passports”. The Daily Mail claimed in its story that they had been told this by a serving member of the Mossad. Again, this is virtually inconceivable since serving members of the Mossad do not speak to journalists but The Daily Mail’s report was treated seriously and rebroadcast around the world as lead item by major TV stations.

Even The New York Times and International Herald Tribune got in on the act on Friday, telling readers that Israel has engaged in 40 Dubai-type assassinations in recent years – again claims made without a shred of evidence, and highly unlikely to be true.

The French media have also regurgitated the stories of the British media, leading to French Prime Minister François Fillon, who was in Syria this weekend, to declare – in front of President Assad of all people! – “we are against this form of assassination; whoever orders them should be punished. Like the British and the Germans we have asked Israeli authorities to explain themselves.”

At the same time that they blamed Israel, these very same British and American media made very little of the fact that every day last week their own governments killed terrorists in Afghanistan (and elsewhere). …

Having milked all it could out of its reports in recent days that British citizens’ passports were used, The Times of London’s main online world news headline subsequently read “Dubai hit squad ‘used diplomatic passports’” – which is the opposite of what The Times was claiming last week.)

Mabhouh had five different passports with him in Dubai: there seems to be no media coverage or interest in which countries’ passports he was using.

And this:

Unlike the anti-Israel 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…

Indeed it is not even clear that the photographs that the Dubai authorities have released to the media are actually real people. They have been shown repeatedly in news broadcasts and plastered on the front page of newspapers around the world in the last 72 hours, and not a single person has come forto say they recognize any of them.

And this:

Prominent international TV stations have also paid enormous attention to this story, blaming Israel without any concrete evidence. For example, the first four stories on the 8 am World News broadcast on CNN International yesterday 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.”

I would make the following points, based on a series of discussions with persons with longstanding familiarity with intelligence matters.

* 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.

* 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.

Or perhaps the Dubai police chief did it himself and invented everything else to demonstrate his technological prowess and proficiency as a detective.

The Green Prince 0

The son of a leading Hamas figure, who famously converted to Christianity, served for over a decade as the Shin Bet security service’s most valuable source in the militant organization’s leadership …

Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas founder and one of its leaders in the West Bank. The intelligence he supplied Israel led to the exposure of a number of terrorist cells, and to the prevention of dozens of suicide bombings and assassination attempts on Israeli figures.

Yousef’s memoir, “Son of Hamas” … will be released next week in the United States. Yousef, 32, became a devout Christian 10 years ago and now lives in California after fleeing the West Bank in 2007 and going public with his conversion.

Yousef was considered the Shin Bet’s most reliable source in the Hamas leadership, earning himself the nickname “the Green Prince” – using the color of the Islamist group’s flag, and “prince” because of his pedigree as the son of one of the movement’s founders.

During the second intifada, intelligence Yousef supplied led to the arrests of a number of high-ranking Palestinian figures responsible for planning deadly suicide bombings. These included Ibrahim Hamid (a Hamas military commander in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti (founder of the Fatah-linked Tanzim militia) and Abdullah Barghouti (a Hamas bomb-maker with no close relation to the Fatah figure). Yousef was also responsible for thwarting Israel’s plan to assassinate his father.

“I wish I were in Gaza now,” Yousef said by phone from California, “I would put on an army uniform and join Israel’s special forces in order to liberate Gilad Shalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists that they now want to release in return for Shalit. That must not be done.” …

Only now … is Yousef exposing the secret he kept since 1996, when he was first held by Shin Bet agents seeking to enlist him in infiltrating the upper echelon of Hamas.

Their efforts proved successful, and Yousef was released from prison in 1997. His former handler, who no longer serves with the security service, says Yousef collaborated with Israel because he wanted to save lives.

“So many people owe him their life and don’t even know it,” said the handler, named in Yousef’s book as Captain Loai. “People who did a lot less were awarded the Israel Security Prize. He certainly deserves it.”

Loai makes no secret of his admiration for his former source. “The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money,” he says. “He did things he believed in… His grasp of intelligence matters was just as good as ours – the ideas, the insights. One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts.”

Loai recalled one time when the Shin Bet received information that a suicide bomber was going to be picked up at Manara Square in Ramallah and be given an explosives belt.

“We didn’t know his name or what he looked like – only that he was in his 20s and would be wearing a red shirt,” he said. “We sent the Green Prince to the square and with his acute sense, he located the target within minutes. He saw who picked him up, followed the car and made it possible for us to arrest the suicide bomber and the man who was supposed to give him the belt. So another attack was thwarted, though no one knows about it. No one opens Champagne bottles or bursts into song and dance. This was an almost daily thing for the Prince. He displayed courage, had sharp antennae and an ability to cope with danger. We knew he was one of those who in any situation – rain, snow, summer – give their all.”

With his memoir, Yousef hopes to send a message of peace to Israelis. Still, he admits he is pessimistic over the prospect of Israel signing a peace agreement with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, let alone Hamas.

“Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I. The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis,” he said. “Palestinians! They do not hesitate to massacre people in a mosque or to throw people from the 15th or 17th floor of a building, as they did during the coup in Gaza. The Israelis would never do such things. I tell you with certainty that the Israelis care about the Palestinians far more than the Hamas or Fatah leadership does.”

We don’t often trust this source, the Israeli paper Haaretz, because it is biased to the left with all that that entails. But this time we believe it.