An Israeli diplomat whose expulsion from Britain was announced Tuesday by the British government is understood to be a member of Israel's legendary intelligence agency, Mossad. The diplomat's expulsion was announced in Parliament today by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in what has been the strongest reaction to date by any Western government to allegations by authorities in Dubai that Mossad was likely behind the Jan. 20 murder of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud Mabhouh in a luxury hotel in the Persian Gulf financial center. In his parliamentary statement, Miliband did not blame Israel or Mossad directly for Mabhouh's murder. But he fingered Israel as the only country that a British investigation has been able to link to 12 forged U.K. passports which investigators in Dubai say were used by members of an alleged hit squad which they believe to have first drugged Mabhouh and then smothered him in his hotel room. He also said that the forged passports were so sophisticated they likely had to be the work of a government intelligence service.
The identity of the Israeli official Britain is expelling was not announced by Miliband; all the foreign minister told Parliament was that he had "asked that a member of the Embassy of Israel be withdrawn from the U.K. as a result of this affair, and this is taking place." However, a person with inside knowledge about the U.K. government's actions, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, indicated that the embassy official in question was a Mossad member.
Miliband was unexpectedly explicit in the case he laid out implicating Israel in the use of what he described as "counterfeit passports" that Dubai authorities say were used by Mabhouh's assassins. He said that an investigation by Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) had concluded that the passports used by the people Dubai accused of being hit-squad members were "copied from genuine British passports when handed over for inspection to individuals linked to Israel, either in Israel or in other countries." The U.K. investigation found "no link to any other country."
Miliband continued: "Given that this was a very sophisticated operation in which high quality forgeries were made, the [U.K.] Government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a State intelligence service. Taking this together with other inquiries and the link to Israel established by SOCA, we have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports."
Miliband said that while Israeli authorities had cooperated with investigators from SOCA, "such misuse of British passports is intolerable," presenting both a hazard to other British citizens in the region and representing a "profound disregard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom." In addition to expelling the unnamed Israeli diplomat, Miliband said London was seeking assurances from Israel that it would never again misuse U.K. passports in a similar fashion. Miliband said that the British government was also revising its guidance for Britons travelling to Israel to warn them about the risks of having their identities stolen and their passports counterfeited and "to set out the steps they can take to minimize that risk." He indicated that all the 12 U.K. counterfeit passports used by suspected Mabhouh hit-team members corresponded to people whose identities had been stolen; when U.K. investigators tracked down the real passport holders, Miliband said, "they found no evidence to suggest that any of those individuals were anything other than wholly innocent victims of identity theft." He said that 11 of the 12 people whose identities were stolen had been issued with new biometric British passports, which are supposed to be much more difficult to forge.
As Declassified has previously reported, Dubai authorities have made public detailed information about what it says were 26 members of the hit squad that killed Mabhouh; in addition to forged British passports, Dubai authorities said other team members used passports from Germany, France, Ireland, and Australia. As we also reported, the alleged murder plot was elaborately staged, to the point where the alleged killers left Mabhouh's room locked from the inside in an apparent attempt to make the death look natural. Israeli government spokesmen have resolutely refused to discuss allegations linking Mossad or Israel to the killing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently visiting Washington and has been meeting with senior U.S. officials, but in public, at least, the Mabhouh case has not been mentioned by either side.