Irrespective of who carried out the January 19 assassination of senior Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, the operation was meticulously planned and successfully executed, and despite a surprisingly impressive investigation by Dubai police, the hit cannot be considered a botched job.
Foreign sources continue to hold the Mossad responsible for the killing, though Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility.
Unlike the failed 1997 Mossad assassination attempt on Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Jordan, local security forces in Dubai were unable to capture the assassins. Today, there are no urgent and massive potential repercussions for diplomatic relations with an Arab state that is regionally vital to Israel, as was the case in 1997, when Jordanian-Israeli relations were strained nearly to the breaking point.
Analysis: So did the Mossad do it?
Analysis: Long-term fallout with UK from Dubai hit unlikely
A diplomatic fallout with London, caused by the use of forged UK passports, seems a very real possibility if UK authorities officially blame Israeli intelligence for the Dubai slaying. But such a development would surely have been factored into any decision to take Mabhouh out. The diplomatic friction now building up would have been deemed bearable before any go-ahead was given for the killing.
Given all of these factors, the very fact that the operation went ahead seems to indicate the degree to which Mabhouh was viewed as an extremely valuable target.
According to reports, Mabhouh oversaw the smuggling of Iranian long-range rockets into Gaza, enabling Hamas to threaten the densely populated Gush Dan region, home to more than three million Israelis and the scene of the country’s financial hub.
In a video made two weeks before his death and broadcast on Al-Jazeera earlier this month, Mabhouh said he had kidnapped and murdered two IDF soldiers, Ilan Sa’adon and Avi Sasportas, in 1989. Mabhouh said he had disguised himself as an Orthodox Jew during the attack.
Dubai police have not discussed the purpose of Mabhouh’s visit to the Gulf state.
According to Ynet’s security analyst, Ron Ben-Yishai, the olim who found their names on the Dubai police’s wanted list will not encounter great difficulties in clearing their names, since most of the details in the forged documents were changed from the originals. The assassins apparently went to great lengths to ensure that the olim could distance themselves from the incident, changing passport numbers, inserting bogus middle names and altering dates of birth.
Most importantly, the passports used by the assassins have been officially declared by European governments to be forgeries, thereby clearing the olim.
There can be little disagreement over the considerable capabilities displayed by Dubai’s police in their investigation, which was as swift as it was effective. The Gulf state, keen to preserve its name as a neutral financial haven, free from the violent woes that afflict other parts of the Middle East, has gone out of its way to try and embarrass the assassins and those who sent them. Such efforts, presumably, would have been foreseen by the mission’s planners as a possible outcome, and deemed acceptable.