17 February 2010

A Sequel to Steven Spielberg's "Munich"?

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a founding leader of Hamas, was suffocated on January 19, 2010, in Dubai.

Background on Mahmoud al-Mabhouh
Mahmoud was a key node in Hamas' arms smuggling operation, providing arms to Hamas fighters in the Gaza strip. Mahmoud was even reported as being the prime conduit for the Iranian arms shipment that Israel interdicted in Sudan last year. In the early years, Mahmoud pioneered the TTP of capturing Israeli soldiers in order to create favorable negotiating platforms. Israel suspected Mahmoud played an integral role in the capture of Avi Sasportas andIIan Sa'adon in 1989. In addition to this, Mahmoud is widely regarded as the founding member of Hamas' military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigade (1992).

Piecing together the events:
At 0900, Mahmoud boarded Flight EK 912 from Damascus, Syria to Dubai and landed at 1430 local time. Dubai officials denied knowing Mahmoud landed at the Dubai International Airport because he flew under an alias. Under the same assumed named, Mahmoud checked into the Bouston Rotana hotel. There are different reports placing Mahmoud on the first floor in RM 130or the second floor, RM 230. Haartz reports that Mahmoud left the hotel around 1630 to meet with someone for dinner and returned sometime around 2030. It is believed that Hamas leadership knew who Mahmoud was meeting in Dubai.

Dubai officials informed CNN that they have identified 11 suspects (seen above) in connection with Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's assassination. The group acquired European passports (1 German, 1 French, 3 Irish, and 6 British). Some of the suspects dressed in tennis attire and carried tennis rackets to look like tourists. Others had wigs and fake mustaches to help conceal true identities. Exact details are sketchy; however, the assassins worked in groups of 2-4 personnel, and stayed in different hotels around Dubai. The man with the French passport is believed to be the logistical expert, who specifically asked for a room across from Mahmoud's and paid in cash. Below is a compilation of surveillance tapes that show a chilling site, the assassins working in teams shadowing Mahmoud, and even rode with him in an elevator prior to his execution. The group had fairly sophisticated equipment that allowed the assassination team entry into the hotel room, without having to create a commotion. Mahmoud had what looked like teaser burns on his body and was believed to be suffocated by a pillow. Mahmoud's wife placed a call to his cell phone at approximately 2130, which he failed to answer. It is believed that Mahmoud died prior, between 2030 and 2050. It is clear that the assassination squad had detailed information prior to January 19, because the team only spent 19 total hours in Dubai. Within minutes of Mahmoud's assassination, the team calmly walked out of the Bouston Rotana hotel, and promptly boarded flights to Europe. Later, Mahmoud's body was transported back to Damascus, Syria for his funeral.

Hamas reports that Mahmoud was not short on enemies to include; Israel, the Palestinian Authority (Fata), and both Egypt/Jordan (where he spent a year in prison). All had reasons to target him, but Israel quickly became the focus of the speculations. Mir Oren, who wrote an editorial for Haartz, calls for the Mossad Cheif to resign. He describes MG Meir Dagan as, "belligerent and Heavy-handed". The Washington Post provides a similar article where Israeli Security Officials believe Mahmoud's assassination was in fact the work of Mossad, Israel's Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations. Minister Avigdor Lieberman provided even less information by neither confirming, nor denying, Israels involvement stating, "Israel never responds, never confirms, and never denies". The assassination TTP fits in line with previous assassinations linked to Mossad, except for the use of passports from Israelis with dual citizenship. I have not had the time to fully research other attacks, but I doubt there are other examples of Mossad assassinations conducted with passports from people with dual Israeli citizenships. For an assassination that was expertly resourced, planned, and executed, I have a hard time believing such poor trade craft would be used. Adding to my disbelief, Dubai reported they detained two U.A.E citizens with Palestinian decent in connection to the hit squad. Dahi Khaflan, A Dubai Police Chief stated, "The United Arab Emirates does not accept the notion that its land can be used as a battlefield for settling scores...". If they truly believe this, it will be imperative for Dubai to keep Iran from using their resort city as a facilitation rat line.


  1. Interesting post. Al-Mabhouh is considered one of the founding members of the Brigades of the Martyr 'Izz al-Din al-Qassam, though not the sole founder. Salah Shahada, who was assassinated by Israel in July 2002, is widely considered to be "the" founder of the Brigades if there can be said to have been a single "main" founder. He was also the head of the Brigades when he was killed.

  2. We shouldn't discount the possibility that Mossad was behind it simply based on its sloppiness. It wouldn't be the first time that an assassination has ended up like this for them. Of course the use of Israeli passports is rather strange. Still, we must remember that all the flaws of an operation are obvious in hindsight.

  3. "In 1987, Britain protested to Israel about what London called the misuse by Israeli authorities of forged British passports and said it received assurances steps had been taken to prevent future occurrences" (17 February, 2010, WSJ).

    NY Times Article; 16 March, 1987:

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