(photo credit: Associated Press)
The British Foreign Office on Wednesday evening “invited” Israeli
Ambassador Ron Prosor to a meeting Thursday to discuss suspicions that
British passports were used in the assassination of Hamas military
commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh last month in Dubai.
underline that the issue had not yet developed into a full-blown
diplomatic crisis with London, a spokesman at the British Embassy in
Tel Aviv stressed that Prosor had been “invited,” and not “summoned,”
to the meeting with Permanent Undersecretary and head of the Diplomatic
Service Peter Ricketts.
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In diplomatic parlance, summoning an
ambassador implies a reprimand, while inviting an envoy in for a
discussion signals looking for clarifications.
diplomatic officials said it was necessary to wait until after the
meeting with Prosor to determine whether this issue was going to blow
up into a major source of tension with London.
In the best-case
scenario, the official said, the British may simply be calling Prosor
in because of an apparent demand by the British public – at least as
reflected in the British media – for some action. In the worst-case
scenario, he speculated, the British may threaten to cut off
intelligence cooperation with Israel unless the Mossad gives them a
list of other British nationals whose passports may have been usurped.
police this week released names, photos and passport numbers of 11
members of an alleged hit squad that killed Mabhouh in his luxury Dubai
hotel room last month. Dubai said all 11 carried European passports.
But most of the identities appeared to be stolen, and a number matched
up with real people in Israel who have claimed they were victims of
identity theft. Only the British passports, however, were believed to
have involved stolen identities.
The foreign nationals included six Britons, three Irishmen, a German and a Frenchman.
Late last night Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Zion Evrony, was called in to the Irish Foreign Ministry in Dublin.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Wednesday that he was taking the
misuse of British passports in the assassination very seriously and
that he had ordered a full investigation in the matter.
got to carry out a full investigation into this. The British passport
is an important document that has got to be held with care,” said the
prime minister. “The evidence has got to be assembled about what has
actually happened and how it happened and why it happened, and it is
necessary for us to conclude that before we can make statements.”
defrauding of British passports is a very serious issue,” a British
government spokesman added on Wednesday. “The government will continue
to take all the action that is necessary to protect British nationals
from identity fraud. The government is involved in a number of strands
of ongoing activity in relation to this specific case.”
British government said on Wednesday that its embassy in Tel Aviv would
be contacting those affected by the incident and would offer them the
support they needed in obtaining new passports.
also announced that the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) would
lead the investigation into the fraudulent use of British passports in
close cooperation with the Emirati authorities.
“We received a
request from the Dubai authorities for assistance with their
investigation in relation to the fraudulent use of UK passports,” a
SOCA spokesperson said. “We can also confirm that we have received an
‘Interpol diffusion’ (red notice) in relation to this investigation.”
SOCA said the photographs and signatures in the passports were false.
can confirm that the photographs and signatures on the passports used
in Dubai do not match those of the passports issued by the UK,” a
British government spokesperson said.
Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday there was no reason to assume
the Mossad was behind the operation simply because Dubai had released
the information about the passports.
“I don’t know why we are
assuming that Israel, or the Mossad, used those passports,” Lieberman
told Army Radio in Israel’s first official comments on the affair.
Lieberman did not deny involvement outright, saying Israel rightly
maintained a policy of ambiguity where security operations were
“Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies,” he said. “There is no reason for Israel to change this policy.”
diplomatic official said that Dubai could selectively be releasing
information to frame Israel, and that conclusions should not be drawn
from “journalistic speculation.”
The Prime Minister’s Office
declined to discuss the matter on Wednesday evening, just as Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu himself did when asked about the issue on
Tuesday in Moscow.
Mabhouh was one of the founders of Hamas and the point man in smuggling Iranian rockets into Gaza.AP contributed to this report