The Arab and Israeli Press have both been reporting this week on the death of Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai, UAE. Initially, Emirati authorities pronounced him dead after a heart attack, but after subsequent blood tests trace elements of poison were found in his blood.
Hamas, for their part, immediately and publicly accused the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, of committing the deed, but the case remains unresolved. Here are the latest updates.
Haaretz is reporting that the Dubai police Chief Dhahi Khalfan has narrowed the list of suspects down to 7 individuals carrying “various European passports.”
The Times of London is also claiming that Al-Mabhouh was injected with a poison that induced cardiac arrest in his hotel room, that the assassains photographed all the documents in his briefcase, and left the room with the “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on the door.
This murder harkens back to the 1997 assassination attempt of Hamas Chairman Khaled Meshaal in which Israeli intelligence agents failed to murder him in Amman, Jordan. Avi Shlaim, in his book The Iron Wall elaborates on this attempt:
Mossad prepared a plan to kill Khalid Meshaal…by injecting a slow-acting poison into his ear as he entered his his office in Amman…Meshaal was injected bu not killed, and his bodyguard captured the two Mossad agents, who were disguised as Canadian tourists…King Hussein [of Jordan]…said that he felt as if somebody “had spat in his face.” Great was his surprise…when he learned that Netanyahu himself had ordered the bizarre operation in Jordan’s capital. (pg.585-586)
That assassination attempt occurred just days after Hussein and Netanyahu had met in Jordan to discuss cooperation on the issue of Islamic terrorism. Similarly, the UAE had just hosted an Israeli cabinet minister, an unprecedented gesture, as part of a broader conference on energy in Dubai. The UAE generally refuses entry to all Israelis regardless of the purpose of visit.
I do not mean for this post to be a defense of Hamas or Al-Mabhouh. Nor do I intend to scathingly indict Netanyahu. It does seem, however, that Bibi does have a penchant for timing his intelligence activities in a very careless way or he is clearly sending a message. What that could be and how it is constructive in building diplomatic relations in the region…I have no idea.
It appears that the Mossad or Israel may not have been involved at all, and is likely that Egypt, Jordanian GID, or Palestinian Autority Security Services were involved.
There are also conflicting reports of Al Mabhouh’s cause of death. In today’s article, Haaretz is reporting that local authorities attribute the cause of his death to asphyxiation, most likely with a pillow, and there was evidence of electrocution behind both of his ears.