ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) – Australia warned Israel on Thursday that if it was involved in the alleged use of three fraudulent Australian passports in a Dubai assassination it would not be considered the “act of a friend,” the foreign minister said.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith summoned Israel’s ambassador and demanded his cooperation in an investigation into the use of the passports in the killing of a senior Hamas figure.
Dubai authorities are investigating the use of at least 26 possibly fraudulent passports in connection with the Jan. 19 slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel room in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“I made it crystal clear to the ambassador that if the results of that investigation cause us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of the Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials, then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend,” Smith told reporters.
Dubai’s police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, has said he was nearly “100 percent” certain that Israel’s Mossad secret service masterminded the killing. Hamas also has blamed Israel and vowed revenge.
Israeli officials have a policy of not commenting on allegations about any of its spy agency’s activities.
Smith told Parliament that Dubai authorities confirmed to Australian officials Tuesday that they were investigating the use of three Australian passports in connection with the slaying, and a preliminary investigation suggests they were fraudulently duplicated or altered.
“At this stage, Australian officials have no information to suggest that the three Australian passport holders were involved in any way, other than as victims of passport or identity fraud,” Smith said.
Smith said all three Australians, Joshua Daniel Bruce, Adam Korman and Nicole McCabe, live in Israel.
In Melbourne, Sarah Bruce said she is worried that her son could be the target of reprisal attacks before people realize he was the victim of identity theft. “I am fearful, but hopefully everyone will see that it is fraud,” Bruce told reporters. “It’s not his photo in the pictures they’re flashing around everywhere.”
Smith said he met United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah on Wednesday, and with Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem, Thursday morning, to reinforce Australia’s full cooperation and the seriousness of the matter.
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.
Israel says al-Mabhouh played a central role in smuggling weapons from Iran to Gaza militants.
The suspects using foreign passports are 12 Britons, six Irish, four French, three Australians and one German. The fact that many of the 26 passports share names with people living in Israel has reinforced widespread suspicion about Mossad involvement and brought sharp complaints from European ambassadors about how the expertly altered passports were obtained.