Ma'an News Agency
May 24, 2010 - 12:00am

Australia has expelled an Israeli diplomat after a probe revealed Israel was behind the forging of four Australian passports linked to the murder of a Hamas operative in Dubai, various media outlets reported Monday.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told parliament that Israel's conduct was "not the actions of a friend," the British Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Investigations into the assassination of Mahmoud Mabhouh in January 2010 in a Dubai hotel room revealed the use of a whole host of European and international passports used by an alleged Mossad hit squad. At least four fake Australian passports are known to have been used in the incident.

The originals reportedly belonged to Australians living in Israel, with Australia deciding to hold Israel responsible for the forgeries, the BBC wrote.

Following an investigation by the Australian Federal Police, which visited Israel as part of its inquiries, the government was left in no doubt that Israel was behind what it called "the abuse and counterfeiting of the passports," according to the British news site.

"The decision to ask Israel to remove from Australia one of its officers at the Israeli embassy in Canberra is not something which fills the Australian government with any joy," the foreign minister said.

"On the contrary, the decision was made much more in sorrow than in anger."

In March, Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged passports by suspected Israeli agents, noting that it was not the first occassion during which UK passports had been used in Israeli assassination plots. At the time, Britain had received a promise from Israel that a similar incident involving forged passports would not reoccur.

Meanwhile, Dubai police investigations revealed that one genuine British passport was used by a suspect in Mabhouh's killing. The British government responded by saying, "We’re very concerned that someone who has possession of what appears to be a genuine British passport may have been involved in some way with the killing of Al Mabhouh. We cannot rule out the possibility that the passport was obtained by deception," British consulate spokesman in East Jerusalem Fadi Adeeb told Ma'an.

The British government is providing its full assistance to the Emirati authorities in their investigation, Adeeb added.


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