As a response to apparently forged British passports having allegedly been used to facilitate a team of Israeli assassins who targeted a high-ranking Hamas figure in Dubai, an unnamed Israeli diplomat has been expelled from the United Kingdom.
A founder of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas organisation's military wing, Mahmud al-Mabhuh was found dead in a room of the luxurious Al Bustan Rotana hotel near Dubai's airport on January 20. After an investigation, police in the gulf state claimed the assassination was carried out by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, and they subsequently issued arrest warrants for the Israeli prime minister and Israel's spy chief.
"The killers used the drug succinylcholine to sedate (Mahmud) al-Mabhuh before they suffocated him," Major General Khamis Mattar al-Mazeina, deputy commander of Dubai police, said in a statement.
"The assassins used this method so that it would seem that his death was natural," Mazeina said, adding that "there were no signs of resistance shown by the victim."
Al-Mabhuh died of an apparent electrocution.
Palestinian groups immediately placed responsibility for the death at the doorstep of the Israeli intelligence service and vowed bloody vengeance.
Israel has sternly denied carrying out the assassination and mocked critics as having watched too many James Bond films.
Yet London, one of Israel's key allies, is still huffing mad over the whole affair: especially for the 12 forged British passports, which U.K. politicians blamed squarely on Israel.
"The foreign secretary said officers from Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) had investigated the matter of the passports," the BBC noted. "It had concluded the passports used were copied from genuine British passports when handed over for inspection to individuals linked to Israel, either in Israel or in other countries, he said."
The expelled Israeli diplomat's name was not released to the press and Israel reportedly plans no diplomatic reprisal.
British Foreign Minister David Miliband told reporters the affair shows that Israel has a "profound disregard" for U.K. sovereignty. Israeli officials called London's move "disappointing."
Israel has a history of forging passports, having admitted in 1987 to faking British identification documents as Mossad agents conducted terrorist reprisals against foes abroad. The Foreign Office later claimed Israel had apologized and promised it would not happen again, according to The New York Times.