Landau denies link to Hamas man's death

Minister calls claim wild imagination going together with Palestinian anger.

hamas men masked 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
hamas men masked 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau on Sunday vehemently denied the Hamas allegation that his entourage was responsible for the assassination of top operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in 10 days ago.
“My entourage went to an international conference. What we are witnessing is the wild eastern imagination going hand-in-hand with Palestinian anger about an Israeli flag flying over Abu Dhabi,” he said.
At the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, other ministers refused to comment on the incident in Dubai, but in response to questions, did compliment Mossad chief Meir Dagan and expressed appreciation for the work of the organization.
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, accused Israeli agents accompanying Landau to the United Arab Emirates two weeks ago of assassinating the operative.
Interviewed on Al-Jazeera, Zahar suggested that the agents might have entered the country with forged documents.He accused Israel of “moving the battlefield abroad.”
Hamas said over the weekend that it will send a “security delegation” to Dubai to participate in the investigations into Mabhouh's death and hinted that it plans to strike at Israeli targets abroad in retaliation.
The delegation would seek to “learn the lessons from the assassination,” Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said. He said Israel would “pay a heavy price for its despicable crime.”
Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing, Izzadin Kassam, was found dead in a hotel room on January 20, a day after entering Dubai. The Dubai government said in a statement that initial investigations showed the crime was likely committed by a “professional criminal gang” and that the suspects left the country before the body was discovered.
However, it was pointed out that Landau’s delegation, which consisted of fewer than 10 people, was guarded by an eight-man UAE security team, from the time it landed on a Friday morning in Abu Dhabi – some 120 km. away from Dubai – until the time it flew out of the UAE.
The Landau delegation hardly left the hotel, only taking one brief site-seeing excursion, and was accompanied throughout by the UAE security detail.
According to one government source, it was clear that Hamas – which was plainly unhappy that an Israeli delegation was allowed to attend the International Renewable Energy Agency conference – was now using allegations of a Mossad involvement in Mabhouh’s death as a way to embarrass the UAE.
Talal Nassar, an official in Hamas’s media office in Damascus said, Mabhouh had been “poisoned and electrocuted in his hotel room in Dubai.”
“We know they stunned him with an electric shocker and then strangled,” said Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzuk, who did not mention poisoning.
Mabhouh’s brother, interviewed in the Gaza Strip’s Jabalya refugee camp, where the two grew up, also said that medical reports supplied to family members in Damascus indicated that he had been subjected to electric shocks and strangulation.
The Hamas statement said Mabhouh was involved in the kidnappings and murders of two IDF soldiers, Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa’adon, in 1989, and that he was still playing a “continuous role in supporting his brothers in the resistance inside the occupied homeland” at the time of his death.
Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities on Friday banned members of Mabhouh’s family from leaving the Gaza Strip to attend his funeral in Damascus. Mabhouh was buried on Friday.
Zahar said that by assassinating Mabhouh, Israel was seeking to turn the international arena into a zone of confrontation with Hamas.
“Israel alone will bear the consequences of its actions,” he said.
“In the past Israel experienced with the PLO what it means to take the conflict to the international arena. Israel knows that Hamas is no less capable of reaching Israeli targets at any time and any place.”
The killing of Mabhouh in Dubai showed that Israel “does not respect the sovereignty of any Arab country,” Zahar said.
He urged the Arab countries to reconsider their ties with Israel in light of its alleged role in the assassination of the senior Hamas operative.
Zahar said Israel had “broken the rules of the game” by carrying out the attack abroad, according to Israel Radio.
“If it wishes to transfer the conflict to the international arena, there will be repercussions,” Zahar was quoted by the radio station as saying.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal also vowed to avenge Mabhouh’s death.
Addressing mourners during the slain man’s funeral in Damascus, Mashaal said: “We will avenge the blood of this giant. If today you [Israelis] are happy about his death, your joy will be short-lived, because we will avenge his blessed blood. If you think that we will abandon the option of resistance, you are under an illusion. Our resistance won’t be weakened by settlements, occupation, killings, walls or starvation.”
A spokesman added that Hamas was considering different courses of retaliatory action, among them an attack on Israeli targets abroad. He stressed that the organization was fully capable of carrying out such attacks, but had so far not chosen to do so.
“We in Hamas hold the Zionist enemy responsible for the criminal assassination of our brother, and we pledge to God and to the blood of the martyrs and to our people to continue his path of jihad and martyrdom,” read the statement on Hamas’s Palestinian Information Center Web site. The group pledged to “retaliate for this Zionist crime at the appropriate time and place.”
Sa’adon’s mother told Army Radio on Friday morning she was happy to hear that a Hamas operative believed to be involved in her son’s murder was assassinated.
“I am happy that [his death] has been avenged, but sad that 20 yearspassed before this happened,” Sa’adon’s mother told the radio station.
Although Mabhouh’s body was found in Dubai on January 20, informationabout his death was only made public after the corpse was returned toDamascus, where Mabhouh had lived since leaving the Gaza Strip in 1989.
A statement issued by Dubai’s official media office said Mabhouhentered the country on the afternoon of January 19, and was found deadwithin a day, suggesting that the killers had tracked his movements.
The statement from the government of Dubai made no mention of Israel.It said that the killers are thought to have been traveling on Europeanpassports and had already left the UAE when the body was found. Thestatement said that Interpol had been contacted for help finding thesuspects, and expressed confidence that arrests would be made.
AP contributed to this report.