JERUSALEM – The diplomatic fallout over the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh took a new turn Wednesday as Dubai’s police chief announced that he would seek the arrests of Israel’s prime minister and spy chief over the killing.
Though Israel has refused to confirm or deny its involvement in the incident, Dubai’s Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim said he would ask the United Arab Emirates’ prosecutor to file Interpol arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad chief Meir Dagan. Tamim said that he was “completely sure that it was Mossad,” Israel’s intelligence agency.
An international arrest warrant would have serious consequences for Israeli leaders. Officially, the government refused to comment on the calls for arrests, though one Foreign Ministry official said it was “highly unlikely that the arrests will go further than the press room of the Dubai police.”
“They are trying very hard to continue to place pressure on Israel. This will not work, and we do not believe these calls will go anywhere,” the official said. “The general perception is that this will all blow over.”
Tamim, however, has made new calls for an investigation into the Mossad, saying the spy agency had “insulted” Dubai and Western countries whose bogus passports were used by the 26 suspects in the assassination.
Until now, the U.S. has avoided the diplomatic row between Israel and those countries, which include Britain, France, Germany, Ireland and Australia. The FBI was drawn into the investigation this week, however, when Dubai police asked it to look into an Iowa-based bank that they think the suspects used.
Thirteen of the suspects used prepaid cards issued by Meta Financial Group’s MetaBank to book hotel rooms and plane tickets, Dubai police said.
MetaBank told McClatchy Newspapers that it has launched its own investigation into the cards and that they were issued through New York-based Payoneer, which has a research and development facility in Tel Aviv.
Tamim also said Dubai now would closely inspect Western passports and that Jews would be “singled out.”
Israeli officials were surprised by the intensity of Dubai’s probe.
“There are an increasing number of fingers pointed at Israel and the Mossad, but we have faced these kinds of accusations before and always maintained that we do not comment,” said an Israeli official with military intelligence.
Within days of the killing in January, Dubai police began to point the finger at Mossad. They now say the assassins used electronic cards to enter Mabhouh’s hotel room and suffocated him with a pillow. The suspects left through a number of countries, with most ending up in Israel, though Tamim has said several may have gone to the United States.
Israelis largely have ignored the diplomatic row surrounding the assassination, and Mossad officials reported that the agency has never been more popular in the country.