Eli Lake
The Washington Times
February 25, 2010 - 1:00am

The embarrassing trail left by a suspected Israeli hit team — a trail that began with doctored European passports, led to the assassination of a Palestinian terrorist in a Dubai hotel room, and ended on the front pages of world papers — has not worsened the country's intelligence cooperation with Western countries, a senior Israeli official insists.

"There is a lot of hyperventilating about this in the public arena," said the senior official, who asked not to be named because he was speaking about sensitive intelligence matters. The official said he was speaking only about the effects on intelligence links and was not confirming Israel's involvement in the hit.

"The countries that coordinate the war on terror with allies like Israel and the United States and Europe are not as exercised about this as some of the public statements," the official said. "There has been no effect on the operational side."

But this assessment stands in stark contrast to the rhetoric emanating from Dubai and Brussels.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of the military wing of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, was killed in a luxury hotel in Dubai on Jan. 19.

Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief of the European Union, said Monday that she was worried that the perpetrators of Mr. al-Mabhouh's killing had acquired the false passports through the "theft of EU citizens' identities."

Last week, Israel's ambassador to Britain was called in for an official reprimand by the Foreign Office. In Dubai, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the chief of police for the emirate, has said he is "99 percent" sure that operatives of the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, killed Mr. al-Mabhouh.

Nonetheless, some details have emerged that do not track with traditional Israeli intelligence tradecraft. The Dubai authorities this week said two of the operatives fled to Iran.

Michael Ross, a retired officer for the Mossad's covert-operations division, said it would be a breach of Israeli protocol for an operative to flee to another target country like that after an operation.

He also said that it was unlikely that Israel would use 26 people for a job that would require far fewer people. "The Mossad believes if two people can do something instead of three people, then send two."


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