A renegade from within Hamas's own ranks facilitated the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room last month, Dubai's police chief said this weekend, as echoes from the killing and its investigation continued to resound in the Middle East and Europe.
The claim, vigorously denied by Hamas, came on the eve of a meeting today in Brussels in which British Foreign Minister David Miliband is expected to seek answers from his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman on Israel's alleged theft of six UK nationals' identity to use their names in false passports to carry out the January 19 assassination.
Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin will also be seeking explanations from Mr Lieberman on the use of faked Irish passports.
However, one week after the allegations first emerged it seems doubtful Mr Lieberman will tell them anything of substance during the encounters on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers meeting because Israel is adhering to its refusal to acknowledge responsibility in the assassination.
The number of fake Irish passports involved was originally thought to be three but is now five. Dubai police say 19 people participated in the killing, of whom it has identified 11.
The assertion that there was a Hamas collaborator adds further intrigue to the killing, already seen as having a spy novel ambience. Gulf News and al-Khaleej newspapers in the United Arab Emirates yesterday quoted police chief Lt-Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim as saying a Hamas member played a significant role in the killing of Mr Mabhouh.
The Dubai police believe the primary perpetrators came from Israel's Mossad agency. The Hamas member, according to Lt Gen Tamim, leaked information on Mr Mabhouh's whereabouts to the suspected assassins.
The remarks came in response to a request by Gaza-based Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar that the UAE extradite to Gaza two Palestinian suspects the Dubai police are holding in connection with the assassination.
A statement released by Hamas headquarters in Damascus rejected the possibility that a member was involved in the assassination. It said Mossad's success in tracking Mabhouh “doesn't mean that there exists a (security) breach.'' A member of the Damascus-based politburo, Sami Khater, said in remarks released on Hamas's Palestinian Information Center website that “we've said from the beginning that the Mossad agency is responsible and if the Mossad succeeded in enlisting some followers, whether Palestinians or from other nationalities, that doesn't change the reality at all.”
Further weekend reports pointed towards an Israeli connection. It was reported yesterday that the British passports had all been taken briefly during routine Israeli airport checks and apparently copied, while a separate report speculated that Benjamin Netanyahu had personally authorised the assassination.