The assassination of top Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai reads likea plot from a Frederick Forsyth novel.
The finger of suspicion points strongly at the feared and shadowy Israeli secret service, Mossad, but it is the use of cloned British and Irish passports by the hit team which is exciting most public interest and causing diplomatic tension.
It must be extremely worrying for the real passport holders to have their names linked to the murder, which is bound to harden relations in the Middle East. What it shows is that the most trusted form of identification is actually valueless if sophisticated agencies like the security services decide to produce fake passports. Totally innocent people could find themselves drawn into a murky underworld of which they have no knowledge.
With Israel refusing to deny or confirm any involvement in the killing, feelings of resentment have been allowed to fester. Both the UK and Irish governments have demanded to know from Israel what links, if any, it had to the operation, but have been stonewalled.
If Israel’s security forces are involved, then this is a despicable way to treat countries which are among its few supporters.
The British and Irish governments are right to demand answers and should continue to apply pressure to Israel to share what knowledge it has about the killing. Their diplomatic integrity is at stake — as could be the safety of their citizens travelling in the Middle East.
In the Middle East the murder will have more immediate ramifications. Dubai is appalled that
the killing took place within its borders. While it is no military threat to Israel, it is another country to add to the list of those in the region which oppose everything Israel stands for. Hamas, of course, will want to avenge the killing and it is likely to choose the first available soft target, ratcheting up the tension and possibly starting tit-for-tat offensives.