Hugh Naylor
The National
January 19, 2012 - 1:00am

GAZA CITY // Two years after his brother Mahmoud, a Hamas arms-broker, was assassinated in Dubai by suspected Mossad agents, Fayek Al Mabhouh still wants answers.

He scours the internet for any news about progress in the efforts to bring Mahmoud's killers to justice.

To the reporters who show up regularly at his home in Jabaliya, he pleads again to Dubai police and other authorities to prosecute members of the hit squad. They had entered the UAE on forged passports and, after donning wigs and the nonchalance of vacationers seeking a respite from winter in Dubai's warm January sun, drugged and suffocated his 49-year-old brother in Room 130 at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel.

Thus far, he noted this week, the Dubai investigation has had more success grabbing publicity than any of the 18 suspects in the murder. "It was all just a public-relations show," said Mr Mabhouh, 42.

"At the beginning, it seemed like Dubai was acting swiftly to find the people who did this," he reflected. "But then after a while, we realised it was just a show for Dubai to show the world that it has control over the situation, that it was still a safe place for businessmen and tourists to go to."

That harsh assessment of an aggrieved family member is at odds with the praise lavished on the Dubai police for uncovering the elaborately orchestrated plot of foreign operatives and multiple aliases and for bringing Israel and its widely feared covert operatives down a notch.

While saying Mahmoud Mabhouh deserved his fate, Israel neither confirmed nor denied its participation in the killing. That did not deter Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan, Dubai's police chief, from urging Interpol in February 2010 to consider arresting the Mossad chief at the time, Meir Dagan, because of his "99 per cent if not 100 per cent" certainty of the spy agency's involvement.

That confidence is of little solace to the Mabhouh family. Sitting under a Hamas poster that bears Mahmoud's image and salutes his martyrdom, Fayek Al Mabhouh described how, with the help of the Qatari government, the family sought to contact Dubai authorities. They were promised by officials in Dubai permission to visit the emirate but, he said, that never materialised.

"Nobody from Dubai has ever contacted the family," he said. "Until now, they haven't even given us his possessions."

Although the Mabhouh family are Hamas loyalists, the group's response to the killing also has angered them.

They have been refused access to the findings of an internal investigation by Hamas into the ambush, which has raised doubts about the organisation for which Mahdmou gave his life. "We suspect there were collaborators inside Hamas who helped kill Mahmoud, but we've been told nothing about this by Hamas," said Mr Mabhouh, one of Mahmoud's 13 brothers and sisters.

Mahmoud's family is under no illusions about the dangers of the life he chose. At the same time, they insist it was a life that was to some extent imposed upon him.

He left school at the age of 12, barely literate and more interested in bodybuilding than in Gaza's political scene.

At the time, he had been servicing cars for 10 years in a Jewish-owned auto-repair business in the Israeli city of Ashkelon. With his earnings, he opened his own garage on Jabaliya's Salah ad-Din Street and brought on his brothers to work with him.

It was the brutality of the Israeli military's response to the first intifada, which started in 1987, that drew him to Hamas, his family recalled. Only when he fled Gaza in 1989 after being accused of killing two Israeli soldiers did they learn he had taken up arms against Israel.

"He was so secretive with everything," said Hussein Mabhouh, 58, who last saw his brother Mahmoud in southern Lebanon in 1992.

By then, remembered Hussein, Mahmoud was living in Syria with a wife and four children. He had learnt to write Arabic and began to study English and Turkish to supplement the other foreign languages - Hebrew and Arabic - he already spoke fluently. With the aid of a half-dozen passports and numerous aliases, he slipped across borders to do Hamas' business, his family learnt after his death.

Two years after his death, his family hopes to bring Mahmoud's widow to Gaza from Turkey, where she fled to last month from Syria. Just as important, they want to know who is behind the events of January 19, 2010, at the Al Bustan Rotana.

"We are not satisfied at all with the investigation," said Hussein Mabhouh. "The same guys who killed my brother Mahmoud are probably off in some other Arab country trying to do the same thing to someone else".


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