Interpol has issued wanted notices for 11 suspects in the murder of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, but Dubai's police chief has asked that Interpol also call for the arrest of the head of Israel's spy agency.
Dahi Khalfan Tamin told Dubai TV he had asked the international police agency to issue one of its "red notices" for the head of Mossad, "in case Mossad is believed to be behind the crime, which is likely now."
A senior Israeli official who wished to remain anonymous told ABC News that if Dubai asks for the arrest of Mossad chief Meir Dagan, "They will be the laughing stock of the international police community."
"They obviously don't have a shred of evidence against Mossad," said the official, "and if they push forward they will be ridiculed by every police force around the globe."
On January 19, al-Mahbouh was killed in his Dubai hotel room. Using surveillance footage, Dubai police identified 11 individuals who were seen tailing Mahbouh and who left the country shortly after his death. All were carrying what appear to be forged European passports, and many of the names and numbers of those passports have been traced to Europeans living in Israel.
On Thursday morning, the Israeli ambassador to the U.K., Ron Prosor, met with the head of Britain's diplomatic service, Sir Peter Ricketts, to discuss the apparent forging of British passports in connection with the assassination. Prosor told the media after the meeting that he was "unable to add any additional information" during the 15-minute meeting.
In France, the Israeli charge d'affaires met with officials at the Foreign Ministry to explain the alleged use of a fake French passport in the suspected hit.
Interpol said it had issued the arrest warrants at the request of the Dubai police. "It is becoming clear that those who carefully planned and carried out the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh most likely used forged or fake European passports of innocent citizens whose identities were stolen," said Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble. The warrants specify that the names on the passports "were aliases used to commit murder."
'There Is No Reason to Think It Was Mossad'
Six of the 11 passports used by the alleged assassins in Dubai and displayed by the emirate's police on Monday were of British origin. All of them exactly match the names of real people currently living in Israel. On Wednesday some of them spoke of their shock and dismay on hearing that their names had been associated with the assassination.
British born Stephen Hodes, 37, told Israeli television that he had not left Israel for two years, "I don't know who is behind this. I am just scared, these are major forces," he said.
Another British citizen Paul John Keeley said he had been "walking around like a zombie."
There is widespread speculation that the Israeli secret service Mossad was behind the killing, although Israeli officials have refused to confirm it. On Wednesday Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman poured cold water on the speculation but did not issue a specific denial.
"There is no reason to think that it was the Israeli Mossad and not some other intelligence service or country up to some mischief," he told an Israeli radio channel.
Mossad has used foreign passports in its covert operations before and it has damaged relations with friendly countries. In 1997 it used two Canadian passports in the botched assassination attempt of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in the Jordanian capital of Amman. The incident upset both the Canadian and Jordanian governments.
Despite official silence at home, the Israeli press has given prominent coverage to the affair. Israel's ability to reach its enemies far from its own territory has long appealed to the public.
There has been a mix of admiration for the clinical professionalism shown in the Dubai operation, and concern that too many clues were left behind.
One of Israel's leading columnists wrote that the assassination "was an operational success but a strategic failure."
From the series of targeted killings carried out in response to the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich to a spree of car bombings and sniper attacks in recent years, "the Israelis have never really stopped assassinations," said former CIA officer Robert Baer. "They've just gotten better at it."