Hamas Assassination Draws Wide Praise In Israel The murder of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh last month in Dubai has had serious diplomatic repercussions for Israel. But many ordinary Israelis say they are proud of the assassins for eliminating an enemy thought to have killed two Israeli soldiers in 1989.
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Hamas Assassination Draws Wide Praise In Israel

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Hamas Assassination Draws Wide Praise In Israel

Hamas Assassination Draws Wide Praise In Israel

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

The murder of a Hamas operative in Dubai last month is causing diplomatic trouble for Israel. Dubai's police chief now says 26 people carrying forged European and Australian passports were involved in the plot, and he says he is 99 percent certain Israel was responsible.

The E.U. has strongly condemned the use of those stolen IDs.

Israel maintains official silence on the killing. Some Israeli analysts are calling it a botched operation because the assassins left behind too many clues.

But it's a different story among many ordinary Israelis who say they are proud of the assassins for eliminating a man held responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers in 1989.

Sheera Frenkel reports from Jerusalem.

SHEERA FRENKEL: Israeli Daniel Bruce was caught unaware when Israel's Channel 2 News informed him he had been named as a suspected assassin of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FRENKEL: His first response was to laugh. Great for me, I guess, he said. Then, the presenter asked if he was scared.

Mr. DANIEL BRUCE: (Through Translator) Actually, no. I guess I should have been scared, but they've managed to take out another terrorist, so it's better.

FRENKEL: Israeli officials have refused to confirm or deny involvement in Mabhouh's death. But across the Jewish state, news of the assassination has been met with a wink, a nod and newfound pride in Israel's spy agency, the Mossad.

Uri Ochayon owns a bakery in Jerusalem. For the past week, he's greeted his customers with jokes over the Mabhouh assassination.

Mr. URI OCHAYON (Bakery Owner): (Through Translator) Listen, we're fulfilling the fantasies of many countries all over the world who want to do this but don't have the means. We have the means. It's a great thing, so we'll laugh at this and just move on.

FRENKEL: He shrugs off international anger over the killing and the growing number of accusatory fingers pointed at Israel.

Yesterday, Dubai police released additional information about suspects involved in Mabhouh's death. Ten of the 26 suspected assassins share names with Israelis, a coincidence Dubai police say is simply too great to be ignored.

Israel is a small country where everyone knows everyone, says Ochayon, so the operation could have been carried out by your neighbor, friend or customer.

In Israel's left-wing daily, Haaretz, education correspondent Or Kashti proudly wrote about being mistaken for one of the Dubai assassins. Kashti said he even received phone calls from friends asking why he hadn't bought them cigarettes from the duty-free in Dubai. And in a small health food store in west Jerusalem, 37-year-old Guy Chen had been mistaken by a number of customers for an uncanny resemblance he bears to one of the alleged assassins.

He's not one of them, he says, but he's still proud of the work they did.

Mr. GUY CHEN: (Through Translator) Every terrorist that is eliminated, we are happy about, we give our blessings. Who took him out? We don't know. But, of course, we have an interest in this man no longer being alive.

FRENKEL: While some Israelis have criticized the Mossad for its alleged involvement in the killing, most have only taken issue with the supposed trail of evidence the assassins left in their wake.

Dubai's advanced surveillance cameras caught what they say were the killers in various parts of the city, and airport immigration officials matched names and passport numbers to the images.

Britain, Ireland, Germany, France and Australia are investigating claims that false passports from their countries were used by killers to enter the country. And at least some of the Israelis whose names appear on the suspect list are not happy about it.

Speaking to Israeli TV last night, Adam Korman said he could not have been more surprised to see his name on the list of alleged assassins.

Mr. ADAM KORMAN: (Through Translator) They took our passport numbers without asking. It's a shock. We have no idea what kind of problems this will create.

FRENKEL: Still, most Israelis found time to joke as they pored over the photos of the 26 suspects. Fourteen of them were wearing glasses with thick frames And, according to Israeli radio, that style is now being requested across the country. They're calling it The Assassin Look.

For NPR News, I'm Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem.

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