Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Fallout from the al-Mabhouh assassination continues to dominate coverage: reports increasingly focus on the botched nature of the operation; Hamas retracts accusations against the PA; criticism in the Israeli press extends to cartoonists; Israeli officials say they expect a manageable backlash; the AP reviews the history of Mossad assassinations and Ha'aretz profiles its Kidon unit; the BBC asks why al-Mabhouh went to Dubai and The Independent interviews his brother; Israel's UK embassy issues a provocative tweet apparently boasting about the murder. Palestinian officials say their state and institution building plans extend into Area C and US officials suggest the Quartet will support this. Ha'aretz says Palestinians have agreed to begin proximity talks next week. A YNet commentary asks why Israel is so opposed to Palestinian nonviolence. PM Fayyad tells US Jewish leaders Israeli incursions undermine the PA. A new survey in the occupied territories shows Hamas would lose new elections and Fatah enjoys a 33% advantage in popularity.

A bumbling Mossad hand suspected in Dubai assassination
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Borzou Daragahi - February 19, 2010 - 1:00am

To its planners, the assassination of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud Mabhouh must have first seemed like the perfect spy operation. They slipped into Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, on fraudulent travel papers. They quietly killed the militant leader long wanted by Israel, reportedly smothering him with a pillow, and discreetly left the country.

Palestinian role Dubai assassination? Hamas blames Mossad
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Erin Cunningham - February 18, 2010 - 1:00am

Hamas, who lost senior leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in January after he was assassinated in an elaborate cloak-and-dagger operation in Dubai, has joined the government of the tiny emirate in saying it's convinced the likely perpetrators were members of the Mossad, Israel's intelligence and security agency.

Cartoonists in Israel take aim at Mossad
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
February 19, 2010 - 1:00am

Political cartoonists working for Israeli newspapers this week turned their attention away from Rafiq Husseini, the Palestinian Authority official who disgraced by a sex tape. The new target of the cartoonists is a subject that is usually off-limits: Mossad. The shift in focus took place as suspicion mounted that the spy agency was involved in the assassination in January of Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

Deibes: PA will include Area C in plans
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
February 19, 2010 - 1:00am

The Palestinian Authority plans to include Area C in it strategic planning in an effort to lay the groundwork for a future state, Tourism Minister Khouloud Deibes said on Thursday. Deibes made this remark following a meeting in Jericho with a visiting delegation from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She also said her ministry is committed to attracting private sector investment to tourism-related projects in the West bank, particularly north of the Dead Sea, and also attract more tourists to the area.

UN envoy: Quartet to back PA autonomy
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
February 19, 2010 - 1:00am

Robert Serry, the UN special envoy to the Middle East peace process, hinted on Thursday that the international community would pressure Israel to cede parts of the occupied West Bank to Palestinian Authority control. Serry said the International Quartet, made up of the UN, EU, US and Russia, will express support for PA demands on the Israeli government to transfer Areas B and of the West Bank C into A, under full Palestinian control, on the road to establishing statehood.

Palestinian leader meets US envoy on peace effort
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Mohammed Assadi, Alastair MacDonald - February 18, 2010 - 1:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met a senior aide to U.S. envoy George Mitchell on Thursday, part of Washington's effort to relaunch peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed the scheduled meeting with David Hale had taken place in Ramallah. But like the Americans he offered no comment on what was discussed. U.S. officials had announced the meeting after Erekat met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Qatar on Sunday. Mitchell and his team maintain a strict silence about their discussions.

In Dubai attack, signs of Mossad shadow war
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
by Matti Friedman - February 18, 2010 - 1:00am

The death of a Hamas operative in Dubai at the hands of a squad of burly hit men conjures up images of the string of killings that followed the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics and a bungled attempt to poison a Hamas leader in Jordan 13 years ago. Israel's Mossad spy agency — the prime suspect in the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh last month in Dubai — has known both triumph and embarrassment in decades of covert warfare, and the latest episode would appear to include elements of each.

Kidon, the Mossad within the Mossad
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Yossi Melman - (Opinion) February 19, 2010 - 1:00am

Every time an assassination is attributed to the Mossad, the foreign media pulls out the name Kidon. This is the name of the Mossad unit which, according to these media sources, handles such operations.

Troubling questions from Dubai
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
(Editorial) February 18, 2010 - 1:00am

If Israel is behind last month's assassination of senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, it may be assumed that anybody who tried to appropriate some of the glory regrets it now. Dubai's police investigation may present the Israeli government and intelligence community with tough questions, even if the government did not take responsibility for the assassination, which the foreign press attributes to the Mossad. What at first seemed like a "clean" operation turned out to be wracked by negligent mishaps.

Abbas to renew talks with Israel next week
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Barak Ravid - February 19, 2010 - 1:00am

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are to be renewed next week, a senior government official in Jerusalem said on Thurdsay. Israeli government officials were told by Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger that the Palestinians were ready to resume indirect talks, the senior government official said. Spindelegger, who visited Israel and the Palestinian territories last week, said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had told him he would consent to the United States' request to renew talks with Israel.

Palestinians guilty again?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Abir Kopty - (Opinion) February 19, 2010 - 1:00am

For many years Israel and members of the International community have claimed that Palestinians “do not take responsibility for themselves. All they do is whine, accuse Israel of everything and make suicide bombings.” That's what we have heard. Now, when those false claims have expired, Israel’s arsenal of claims is replaced quickly.

Fayyad tells US Jewish leaders: IDF incursions undermine us
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Haviv Rettig - February 19, 2010 - 1:00am

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told visiting American Jewish leaders on Thursday that IDF incursions into Palestinian population centers “need to stop.” While “there is interest on both sides” in promoting Palestinian development and progressing toward statehood, Israel’s military operations in PA-controlled areas “not only run operational risks, but they undermine our credibility and standing. We need actions taken by the Israelis to be consistent with the notion of a state in evolution,” Fayyad said.

Why did Hamas chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh go to Dubai?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC News
by Andy Walker - February 18, 2010 - 1:00am

Amid all the speculation about who killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a question remains: What was he doing in Dubai? Hamas have refused to comment on the reasons for Mr Mabhouh's trip and they have limited their public pronouncements to promises of revenge against Israel. But why would a known militant leader - reportedly "at the top" of an Israeli hit list - leave the protection of Syria and his bodyguards to go to Dubai in the "Westernised" United Arab Emirates?

Israeli embassy raises eyebrows with tennis tweet
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by David Batty - February 18, 2010 - 1:00am

Amid the mounting diplomatic row over Mossad's alleged assassination of a Hamas commander in Dubai, the Israeli embassy has turned to Twitter to comment. A tweet issued by the embassy today read: "@israeluk You heard it here first: Israeli tennis player carries out hit on #Dubai target http://ow.ly/18A79". It links to a story about the Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer, who beat the top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki yesterday to reach the quarter-finals of the Dubai Championship.

The truth about the Mossad
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Ian Black - (Analysis) February 19, 2010 - 1:00am

Last November, a sharp-eyed Israeli woman named Niva Ben-Harush was alarmed to notice a young man attaching something that looked suspiciously like a bomb to the underside of a car in a quiet street near Tel Aviv port. When police arrested him, he claimed to be an agent of the Mossad secret service taking part in a training exercise: his story turned out to be true – though the bomb was a fake.

Profile: Victim's brother tells of 'shadowy and secretive life'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Independent
by Said Ghazali, Donald MacIntyre - February 19, 2010 - 1:00am

Unsurprisingly, the family of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh are convinced that his death was the work of Israel. His older brother, Hussein, said the assassinated Hamas commander had owned a sewing factory in Damascus, but lived a "shadowy and secretive life" in Syria. "Each time he called us he talked from a different phone." Hussein – a Hamas activist and head of a Gaza charity – said this was the fourth attempt on his brother's life. "Regardless of the evidence, it is in the interests of the Mossad to assassinate him," he told The Independent.

Taking credit without responsibility, Israel expects little diplomatic fallout
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
by Omar Karmi - February 17, 2010 - 1:00am

Was it a diplomatic mess or a political success? Israeli opinion about the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel last month swings between both, even as few rule out the possibility of Mossad involvement. The Israeli government is maintaining its standard policy of ambiguity in such cases, neither confirming nor denying involvement, a policy that enables the country to claim “credit” without taking responsibility.

Hamas Would Lose Elections
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Media Line
by Benjamin Joffe-Walt - February 18, 2010 - 1:00am

Survey finds Fatah to be 33% more popular than Hamas. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' party Fatah would crush their rivals Hamas were elections to be held today, a Palestinian survey has found. A survey conducted earlier this week in both the West Bank and Gaza and released Thursday found that 48 percent of voters would support Fatah were presidential elections held next week, while only 11 percent would vote for Hamas. 10 percent of respondents said they would vote for other Palestinian political parties and 31 percent said they were undecided or would not vote.

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