By ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writer Aron Heller, Associated Press Writer – Thu Feb 25, 12:55 pm ET
JERUSALEM – Eight more people in Israel turned out Thursday to have names matching suspects in the assassination of a top Hamas operative in Dubai, and claimed their identities had been stolen.
The son of one of those newly caught up in the case said his father did not know whom to turn to for help because the country's Mossad spy agency is strongly suspected of masterminding the killing.
The latest revelations follow Dubai's release a day earlier of the names of 15 new suspects. They deepened suspicions of Israeli involvement in the Jan. 19 slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whom Israel had identified as the point man for smuggling weapons to the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers.
The unraveling of the spy novel-like story is producing new twists on a near-daily basis, raising questions such as why so many people were needed to carry out the hit, especially with Dubai surveillance capturing many of their movements. The apparent use of forged documents has also put Israel in hot water with some of its staunchest allies.
"It's clear that illegal use was made of personal information," said Raphael Cannon, whose 62-year-old father Roy, an immigrant from Britain, shares one of the 15 new names released by Dubai on Wednesday.
Cannon told The Associated Press the full name and birth date on the forged passport matched his father's, but the photo did not. "Who are we supposed to contact about something like this?" Cannon said.
Dubai's announcement brought the number of people suspected in al-Mabhouh's killing to 26. In all, at least 15 of the names match those of real people who live in Israel — and at least half of them are dual nationals. All of those contacted have said their identities were used without their permission.
While Israel remained silent, the diplomatic fallout kept growing as Australia joined several other countries in questioning Israeli involvement and alleged use of fake foreign passports.
Australia's foreign minister summoned Israel's ambassador on Thursday and demanded his cooperation in an investigation into the alleged use of three fraudulent Australian passports. Stephen Smith warned Israel that if it were implicated in the case Australia "would not regard that as the act of a friend."
Britain, Ireland and France have also sought clarifications from Israeli diplomats on the alleged use of their passports.
"We are very angry about the fraudulent use of information that was stolen from valid Irish passports to make forged passports," Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said in Gaza on Thursday, without fixing blame.
Israeli security officials say al-Mabhouh was involved in smuggling long-range missiles into the Gaza Strip, with help from Israel's archenemy Iran, and was wanted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers who were captured and killed in 1989. Israeli leaders have kept mum on the issue, aside from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who dismissed the concerns of Europeans "who have seen too many James Bond movies."
Dubai police have outlined a 19-hour operation to kill al-Mabhouh, including clockwork precision and disguises such as fake beards, wigs and tourist garb. Dubai police said some of the latest suspects — 10 men and five women — were part of "logistical support" teams that staked out Dubai for months before the hit. The suspects carried forged passports — 12 British, six Irish, four French, three Australians and one German.
Dubai's police chief has said he is convinced the Mossad masterminded the killing and released a flow chart of the suspects' movements — stretching from Europe to South Africa to Asia.
So far, none of the 26 people who appear in the photographs has come forward.
However, Israeli analysts expressed doubt about the operation's purported scope, saying the Mossad would have been unlikely to risk exposing so many agents.
Israeli officials have a policy of not commenting on its spy agency's activities. Without acknowledging involvement, however, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni praised the killing as "good news to those fighting terrorism."
The new details added at least one incongruous wrinkle to the story: Dubai said two of the suspects left the country on a ship bound for Iran, a seemingly unlikely move for Israeli agents. Iran's government has not commented on that information.
The case's alleged identify theft posed serious problems for the victims, many of whom feared reprisal attacks from Hamas and worried that their ability to travel would be compromised.
Sarah Bruce, the mother of another one of the names on the new list, said she was "totally shocked" to hear her son's identity had been used.
Australian Joshua Daniel Bruce has lived for seven years in Jerusalem, where he is studying Judaism. The date of birth and signature used in the Australian passport under his name do not match his own.
"I am fearful, but hopefully everyone will see that it is fraud. It's not his photo in the pictures they're flashing around everywhere," his mother said from her Melbourne home.
She said she had spoken briefly to Joshua. "He was unaware of everything that was going on," she said.
Associated Press writer Tanalee Smith in Adelaide, Australia, contributed to this report.
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