JERUSALEM (AFP) – The Israeli diplomat who is to be expelled from Britain over the alleged forgery of British passports connected to the killing of a top Hamas militant, is a Mossad officer who will be replaced by the Jewish state, Israeli media reports said on Wednesday.
Downing Street on Tuesday declared the unnamed diplomat persona non grata after a police investigation found that Israel stole the identities of 12 British citizens to make the fake passports.
Public radio and other Israeli media said the diplomat was an officer in the Mossad spy agency and would be replaced “soon” by another intelligence officer.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he was “very disappointed” by the expulsion, but a senior official said the Jewish state would not retaliate.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband said there were “compelling reasons” to believe that Israel was behind the forgeries used by the team which killed Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai in January.
“I’ve asked that a member of the embassy of Israel be withdrawn from the UK as a result of this affair and this is taking place,” he told parliament.
The Foreign Office declined to specify the position of the expelled diplomat, but reports in several British newspapers said the diplomat was believed to be Mossad’s station chief in London, without citing sources.
The killing of Mabhuh has been widely blamed on Israel, which has declined to comment on the affair in line with a longstanding policy of ambiguity.
The suspects used the identities of 12 Britons, as well as Australian, French, German and Irish nationals. Interpol has issued arrest notices for 27 suspects wanted by Dubai in connection with the killing.
Many of the forged passports bore the names of Israelis of dual nationality who appear to have been the victims of identity theft.