Dubai hit exposes Hamas' weaknesses
By Mel Frykberg
RAMALLAH - Hamas has closed ranks and is licking its wounds following the
January 20 assassination in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, of one of its
top operatives, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. It is alleged that one of its own was
responsible for providing the hit team with vital logistical information.
Dubai's chief of police, Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, on Sunday
called on Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar to launch an "internal investigation"
into the operation. Tamim claimed an associate of Mabhouh, a high-ranking
military leader, leaked information about the Hamas leader's visit to Dubai and
went as far as to refer to the associate as "the real murderer".
Mossad, the Israeli intelligence organization, is believed to have the motive
and the means to carry out the killing. The organization has a history of
assassinating Israel's political opponents abroad
and the Dubai murder bears its hallmark. Foreign media reports alleged that
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the killing at the beginning
of the year and members of the assassination squad were scouting out the
location months before. Israel’s foreign minister claimed no knowledge of the
"This is a serious breach of Hamas' security, something which the organization
hitherto had prided itself on. It shows that Israeli intelligence has managed
to penetrate the inner circles of the group," Samir Awad, head of the political
science department at Birzeit University, near Ramallah, told Inter Press
The four men suspected of the murder at al-Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai were
caught on closed circuit television leaving Mabhouh's room five hours after the
Hamas commander checked in, according to the Financial Times. Earlier, the team
assigned to watch the target donned tennis gear to pose as everyday hotel
guests. Police believe Mabhouh was knocked out with a stun gun and then
suffocated, according to the report. Mabhouh was a regular guest at the
five-star property, the newspaper reported, citing hotel insiders.
The assassins, at least 11 carrying European passports, had arrived in Dubai
from various destinations and had all left Dubai for destinations ranging from
Paris to Johannesburg within 12 hours of the assassination, according to the
"The Israelis have had to struggle to infiltrate Hamas intelligence in the past
due to the fact that the inner core of the movement is made up of hardcore
idealogues whose religious zealotry made it difficult for them to be bribed,"
Awad told IPS. "This is one of the reasons that the Israelis have been unable
to establish the precise location of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who
has been held by Hamas in Gaza for a number of years despite the many Israeli
informers in Gaza."
Israeli public diplomacy minister Yuli Edelstein insisted he did not know who
carried out the assassination. Speaking to a meeting of the Henry Jackson
Society think-tank at the British parliament, he said: "Even if it will turn
out that the worst secret service of the worst country in the world had managed
to get to that guy, I will still not call it murder.
"We are talking about the worst murderer in one of the worst terrorist
organizations, so let's not get overly emotional about his death, and let's not
start mourning his death," according to the Daily Telegraph.
European foreign ministers have condemned the "fraudulent" use of EU passports
by Mabhouh’s killers. A joint statement called on all countries to cooperate
with an investigation by the Dubai authorities but made no reference to Israel.
The passport numbers of five Irish citizens were used in bogus passports used
by the alleged killers, who also used six fake British passports and one each
from France and Germany, the Irish Times reported.
Professor Moshe Ma'oz of Jerusalem's Hebrew University told IPS: "This is
indeed a big blow to Hamas' invincibility."
Israel has found it easy to bribe Palestinian Authority (PA) members due to the
nepotism and corruption pervading the organization.
"There are various methods Israeli intelligence uses to establish agents and
get close to the Palestinian leadership in both political factions. This
includes using drugs, women, financial bribery and emotional and political
blackmail. This just goes to show that Hamas is human and has its weaknesses
which too can be exploited," Ma'oz said.
The collective Hamas leadership has gone into damage control. Various sources
approached by IPS refused to talk or even answer their phones.
Mahmoud Ramahi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in
Ramallah who was imprisoned for three years by the Israelis for Hamas
membership and who recently gave an exclusive interview to IPS on Hamas' stand
on the 1967 borders, refused to comment.
"You will have to speak to Hamas in Gaza about this. I can only speak as a
member of the PLC," Ramahi told IPS. A subsequent visit by IPS to the Ramallah
offices of the Hamas PLC members failed to locate any of the PLC members.
Ahmed Yousef, a close associate of Gaza's Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and
former foreign adviser to Gaza's Hamas leadership, also refused to comment.
"No, I'm not interested in talking about the Dubai assassination. Surely you
can find somebody else to talk to?" Yousef asked, without saying why he
IPS then tried, without success, to contact Gaza's Hamas spokesman Fawzi
Barhoun who had turned off his phone.
Another Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zahuri, denied foreign media reports
that Hamas member Nahro Massoud has been arrested in Damascus by Dubai
authorities, a denial supported by Hamas politburo chief-in-exile in Syria,
As more information about the subterfuge surrounding the assassination is made
public knowledge, the more conspiracy theories circulate and the thicker the
Two former PA-affiliated Fatah members, and former PA intelligence officers in
Gaza before Hamas overthrew the PA unity government in the June 2007 coup, have
been named as chief suspects. Anwar Shheibar and Ahmed Hasnain were allegedly
members of a death cell that carried out violent suppression of the PA's
political opponents, especially Hamas members, before they fled Gaza after the
They were recently arrested in Jordan then extradited to Dubai on request of
the Dubai authorities, according to newspaper reports. The two are alleged to
have rented hotel rooms and hired vehicles for the assassination squad.
They are further alleged to be close contacts of Muhammad Dahlan, one of the
alleged chief instigators of an attempted Gaza coup against Hamas, which the
Media reports allege both men are not only employees of one of several
Dubai-based companies run by Dahlan but until recently were also on the PA
payroll in Ramallah. Dahlan has denied the claims, while a PA spokesman in
Ramallah refused to be drawn on the issue.
"We are following a policy of no comment until the police in Dubai have
finished their investigation as we believe this could negatively affect the
outcome," Ghassan Khatib, a PA media office spokesman, told IPS.
Political scientist Awad told IPS: "While all the allegations regarding Hamas
and PA involvement in cooperating with the assassination are just rumors and
possibly conspiracy theories at this point in time, none of this bodes well for
future unity between Hamas and the PA, or Palestinian peace talks with Israel."
Ma'oz, of Hebrew University, said other factors enter into the equation on
future negotiations between the two Palestinian parties as both have a lot to
lose from the current circumstances.
"With the correct pressure and intensive negotiations the two sides could still
find common ground," Ma;oz told IPS.