On the 20th of January 2010, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh checked in at the Al Bustan Rotana hotel in Dubai. He had landed the night before and planned to meet an Iranian contact to arrange a delivery of arms for Hamas. But he would never make the rendez-vous. His body was found in his room the next morning, despite no signs of forced entry or violence.
Known as “Abu Abdullah”, al-Mabhouh was one of the founders of the armed wing of Hamas. The former fighter quickly became a planner. He is believed to have overseen networks supplying arms to Hamas from Iran, China and North Korea. More than enough to make him one of Israel’s main enemies.
Doctors at first put the death down to a heart attack. The story would have ended there, if Hamas had not then accused Mossad of murder, as a result of inquiries carred out by the police in Dubai.
What the killers did not know is that in Dubai, CCTV is everywhere. Not only were the 11 assassins caught on camera when they arrived at the airport, but their movements inside the hotel were also filmed.
The police investigating the attack were able to put names and faces to the attackers by matching up data from the airport and the hotel. They appeared to be French, German, Irish and British.
Seven Israelis had the shock of their lives when details of the group were published. Of dual nationality, they had no involvement in the affair. Their identities had been stolen.
Despite being confronted with the news, Israel is sticking to its guns, saying there is no proof that Mossad is involved. However the boss Meir Dagan is likely to carry the can if operational errors are found to have led to any diplomatic fallout.
For example, the location of the murder. Dubai is one of the few Arab countries which has good relations with Israel. The use of passports from countries which are friends of Israel and have been angered by the affair. And stealing the identity of seven Israeli citizens. All of these have led to suspicions that Tel Aviv is involved.