Britain To Expel Israeli Diplomat Over Killing

British officials say the U.K. government is to expel an Israeli diplomat following the use of fake British passports in the assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai in January. Israel has refused to confirm or deny its role in the killing.

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British officials are saying today that the British government will expel an Israeli diplomat following a dramatic assassination in January in Dubai. The man killed was a high-up member of Hamas, and the killers disguised their identities with fake passports, some of them British.

NPR's Rob Gifford has the details.

ROB GIFFORD: British Foreign Secretary David Miliband is due to address parliament later today, though his office would not give details in advance. Government officials speaking anonymously say that Israel's ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, had been called to the Foreign Office yesterday for talks, and that an Israeli diplomat is being expelled from Britain.

Police in Dubai said they had identified a total of 27 people they say were involved in the assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel room in Dubai in January. Interpol has issued arrest warrants for all 27 of them. In total, 12 of those suspects entered Dubai on fake British passports. Other members of the alleged hit squad used Irish, French, German and Australian passports. All those countries also say the documents used were fraudulent. Britain sent investigators to Israel this month to meet eight Israeli-British duel nationals whose identities were used on the fake passports. They claim to have nothing whatever to do with the assassination, and say their identities were stolen.

Foreign Secretary Miliband had, in February, called the use of fake British passports an outrage, and demanded that Israel cooperate fully with the investigation into how the passports were obtained. Israel's Mossad intelligence agency has used foreign passports before in its operations, and the Dubai police chief investigating the killing of Mabhouh said he was 99 percent sure that Mossad was behind the killing. Israel shrugged off those accusations, saying he had no proof to make them.

In 1987, Israel had promised Britain it would not use British passports in secret operations again. On that occasion, eight British passports believed to be for Mossad agents were found in a bag in a West German telephone booth. The Israeli government has refused to confirm or deny involvement in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, but today's expected announcement is likely to be another source of tension in what has often been a difficult relationship between Britain and Israel.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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