Israel shrugs off calls for arrest of top spy

Israel on Friday shrugged off calls for its top spy to be arrested over the killing of a Hamas commander, as pressure mounted after Interpol issued arrest warrants for 11 suspects in the Dubai hit.

“The Dubai police have provided no incriminating proof,” a senior official told Agence France-Presse, asking not to be identified.

The Dubai police chief said on Thursday he wanted Mossad chief Meir Dagan to be arrested if the agency is behind last month’s killing of Mahmud al-Mabhuh, a top commander of the Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza.

“The threats against Meir Dagan are absurd,” the Israeli official said. “The accusations are baseless. Police have not explained the circumstances of his death, or even any proof that he’s been assassinated,” he said.

Mahmud al-Mabhuh, one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing, was found dead in his Dubai hotel room on January 20.

Police said Mabhuh, who was reportedly on a trip to buy arms for Hamas, was transiting on his way to China, then Sudan.

No government has directly accused Israel, although Dubai police chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim said he was near certain the hit was carried out by the Mossad, Israel’s fabled foreign espionage agency that has used fake passports in similar operations in the past.

Interpol on Thursday issued arrest notices for 11 suspects — six listed with British passports, three Irish, one French and one German — wanted by Dubai for the killing.

The killers’ use of allegedly fake passports prompted Britain, Ireland, France and Germany on Thursday to call in Israeli envoys for talks at their foreign ministries.

Tough questioning
The Israeli official played down the issue. “Israel was only asked to help investigate the use of the fake passports.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday stressed the need for a “full investigation”, while Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin announced “frank” talks with Israel’s envoy — usually diplomatic code for angry exchanges.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will face tough questioning on Monday when he meets European counterparts in Brussels, in a trip that was planned before the Dubai murder.

While some Israeli media have expressed concern the hit placed Israel in the eye of a diplomatic storm, the Haaretz newspaper quoted an official as predicting “the affair will quickly subside”.

And Israeli media also point out that despite the controversy over the hit, Western governments are not mourning Mabhuh.

“Whichever agency carried out the hit, with whatever cooperation from elsewhere, it achieved its critical goals — the target was eliminated and the squad made its escape,” the English-language Jerusalem Post said in an editorial.

The newspaper took aim at the “kerfuffle” in the British media over the affair, saying “this pig-headed refusal to acknowledge that sometimes the needs do justify the means reflect a moral impoverishment that’s not limited to Britain”. — AFP

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